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School’s (May As Well Be) Out Forever

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on September 9, 2011 | Comments (4)

Before I start I’d like to remind all my friends in San Diego (glad you have your lights back on!) that I’ll be at Balboa Park, tomorrow, September 10, for Pagan Pride day. I’ll be speaking on Past Lives at 11:00, so come out and spend the day.

And next weekend I’ll be coming to Las Vegas and I’ll be giving three workshops. On Saturday the 17th I’ll be giving workshops on Talismans and Amulets, and later on the same day I’ll be revealing the Secrets of  Magical Evocation. On Sunday the 18th I’ll be giving a workshop on Tarot & Magic. All the workshops will be held at Well of the Moon on Decatur Blvd. Their phone number is: 702-666-7200.

For more details on these events, please go to my website by clicking on this LINK.

And now, a post that is my opinion
on attitudes about the value and purpose of education…

<rant mode>

Two things occurred that drew me to this subject. First, for most students, school is now back in session. So I was thinking about the nature of education. Second, I recently voluntarily assisted at a NLP Practitioner training for almost 300 people. The lead trainer was Dr. Matt James, head of Kona University. This training was a new methodology, stripping out much side material that goes into usual Neuro-Linguistic Programming “Prac” trainings. Commonly, such trainings cost thousands of dollars, but this one was only 97 bucks. This is an astounding bargain, and was well worth every penny. Now, admittedly this was fewer days, so the costs to rent the room and to pay for staff were lower, but even so, the only way they could afford to do this was by having some speakers selling their wares. They had just two. One was a delightful gentleman named Drew who shared a great deal about publicity and marketing. He delivered enough information that even if you weren’t interested in buying the program he had for sale, you learned a lot.

The other person was an abrasive Australian selling a method (“puts” and “calls”) to get rich on the stock market. I was, unfortunately, turned off by his egotistical, know-it-all, “you can’t lose” approach. After all, if you can’t lose wouldn’t everyone be doing it?

But the reason for the rant you are reading is something this gentleman said at the beginning of his talk. He pointed out that if you spent $30,000 a year on a college education for four years, you would have spend $120,000 and “all you would get is a job.” His pitch went on to focus on how, for far less in his investment scheme…er, system…you could have earned many tens of thousands over those same four years.

Right and Wrong

The man from “Oz” was both right and wrong. If all you’re looking for is a job, you could probably get training for a great job without going to college. However, according to the U.S. government, you will make almost a million more over your lifetime if you get a four-year degree. Why is this?

No matter what degree you get, when you get a new job you can expect to spend several weeks or months learning how your new company wants you to do the job. Some or even much of this real-world training will contradict what you learned in school. So if they train you anyway, why do they want you to have a degree?

Besides having the basic background for your coursework, there are two major reasons for this. The first is that they want to see if you can stick to something you start. Spending four years getting a degree is quite an accomplishment. But there is another reason, too.

A university degree does more than train you how to do a job. It teaches you about the world.

When you’re in college, you don’t just take courses in your area of specialty. You’ll also take “elective” classes often in what are called the liberal arts, including history, philosophy, language, art, music, and a variety of other subjects that may have nothing directly to do with your major. These classes can help you become a well-rounded individual, capable of thinking about and discussing art, psychology, philosophy, history, and other topics. They give you other perspectives that you can bring to a future job, perspectives that can spark creativity and make you valuable in ways that are impossible to guess.

Recently, I saw some articles that told about colleges where, when you graduate, you’ll make the most money. Far be it from me to suggest that you don’t consider this.

However, consider that the greatest leaders and thinkers in the history of magick and the occult have also been philosophers, artists, writers, psychologists, and more. Going to college won’t make you such a person—indeed, you can become such a leader without college. What colleges and universities do deliver is the opportunity to study these topics before life gets in the way.

Is a college or university degree necessary for a magician or just to get ahead? No.
Do I encourage it for the opportunities it provides to help you fulfill your potential? Absolutely.
Should you go to college just to get a better job? I think that may be a waste of  your time and it may prevent others who value a broad education from obtaining it.

In sum, if you want to go to school to get a broad education, a degree, have better earnings potential, and start on the way to what the Golden Dawn called being “more than human,” a degree from a college or university can be very helpful. If you just want a good job, take some trainings or go to a technical school and save time and money.

One of my personal mottoes is (Maybe it will be a good epitaph—not that I want to need an epitaph any time soon!):

You don’t stop living when you stop breathing.
You stop living when you stop learning.

I’ve met all sort of people who have stopped learning and continue to merely exist, focusing on past experiences and past victories. I prefer to look toward the future.

Where are you? What have you learned today?

Agree? Disagree?

</end rant>

Reader Comments

Written By Christopher
on September 9th, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

I totally agree. I have a BA and an MFA, and I teach at a university. My degrees (the first in English Writing, the second in Creative Writing/Poetry) didn’t really open any doors for me financially (outside of academia), and for things that my programs “prepared” me to do (publishing, editing, writing, etc), the best way to get a job is through networking and self-driven work. But I went in to my education without the expectation of getting a job through it–maybe to my detriment. My education is not something that can be quantified. It’s given me the opportunity to read both classic and contemporary writers, to learn philosophies, and to engage with a community of people brought together by a love of learning. It’s given me the free time to deeply research esoteric traditions, as well as to have access to it (the Cornell library has a great occult section that includes not only obvious authors such as Gardner and Regardie, but also texts such as Pico della Mirandola’s 900 Theses and the Corpus Hermetica). In my case, my grad program was fully funded, so while I got by with little compared to, say, an engineer, I got by without worry. And as the BA in the United States is quickly becoming our generation’s high school diploma, it is of utmost importance to figure out viable funding models so that everyone (who wants it) can have the opportunity to participate in a community of knowledge without putting themselves in financial peril.

Our culture is simultaneously anti-intellectual and qualifications obsessed–devaluing the concept of learning for the sake of learning while enforcing certain levels of education. I am in absolute accord with your statement at the end, and to paraphrase: if you want a job, get a job; if you want to learn and to have a lifestyle of learning, enroll at a university or college.

Written By Phaedra Bonewits
on September 9th, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

I remember my dad telling me that back during WWII when he was in the Navy, they chose some of their pilots-in-training strictly on the basis of whether they had a college degree, “…even if it was in Music,” he’d say. The reason was that by earning a degree, they had demonstrated an ability to stick to something and see it through. I’ve remembered that all my life.

Yet sometimes life does come in the way of what we are trying to finish (I came within 6 credits of my Master’s degree; it will, alas, not happen). A shocking number of people begin college, but never finish. Whether that is the fault of the individual or of the educational system, I will not speculate. I gained from what I did not finish, but I regret not finishing. The journey is important, but so is the accomplishment.

It reminds me of the journey through the Major Arcana. You don’t go through once, but again and again, spirally upwards (at least, one hopes, it is upwards). If you don’t take the last steps on one cycle, you can’t really begin the next.

Written By Patrick
on September 10th, 2011 @ 10:34 am

I think you can imagine what I think of this. A real education does not prepare one for a job: it prepares one for life. If someone were to tell me “I spent all that money and all I got was a job” I’d say “You did it wrong.” I go so far as to suggest, if people want to study magic, they get a BA or a BS first.

Written By Anita Perez
on September 11th, 2011 @ 1:59 am

I agree that higher education has great value, for more than just getting a job; however, I am feeling the bite right now for having been unable to complete my degree.
I had plenty of desire and motivation. I definitely had the smarts. What I didn’t have was the MONEY. Grants and other funding were taken away, just as I was closing in on the home stretch. Why? Budget cuts, and changes in the guidelines that whacked a year or more off eligibility. I also had to interrupt what would have been my senior year to take care of an ailing parent. All attempts to continue were blocked after that, by a variety of circumstances too long to list here.
Everyone says variations of the following: “Oh, if you had REALLY wanted to go back, you would have managed it somehow.” Really? Well, if you faced constantly escalating opposition, you would probably be more focused on immediate survival issues too…as I have been.
Yes, higher education is extremely desirable, and I crave it every day. I wish I could complete my degree, and I wouldn’t stop there. I haven’t let the failure of the system prevent me from continuing to read voraciously, take courses that that were/are free, constantly explore the internet and eat/breathe/absorb it all in. I am the archetypal life student…and yet, I have no degree. And yes, I’m pissed about it.
When I see people who have the opportunity and the support shrug it off, and say it’s a waste of their time and energy, I say “Fine. Give me YOUR chance, since you aren’t using it.”

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