Tuesday, August 13, 2013

no college degree

Well, it's settled -- no college degree for me.

On a whim, last week, I called up a local university to find out what precisely I might have to do in order to complete the college degree I had never completed in the early 1960's. I am 73 and have no need -- either by profession or enthusiasm or yearning-for-learning -- to attain such a degree. But my retired neighbor Joe is into college, my son is gearing up to return to the classroom and my newest next-door neighbor is chairman of the theater department at her college so ... it seemed that higher education had entered my atmosphere.

Talking with a "Donna" on the phone today set me straight. I had hoped that my "life experience" might allow me to skip through the academic tulips with a few essays and little (preferably no) financial outlay. No soap. There were a bunch of required courses (logic, math, science etc., none of which bang my chimes) and a big financial bite into the bargain.

But the conversation made me realize that most of what I have done in my life has had little to do with what others thought of what I could do (the meaning of a degree). From packing Popsicles to running property lines in the Oregon woods to helping to repair bridges to army language school to book publishing to news-papering to painting apartments to Zen Buddhism ... it was all pretty much based on what I could do and less on what badges I could put on display.

The one notable exception was when I applied for work at a book publishing house. The high-ranking editor who interviewed me was old school. We talked for a while and then he asked bluntly, "So, do you want a job or not?" I was not entirely sure I did, but I said I did. "OK," he replied, "let me call the personnel department and get this college crap out of the way." I don't know what would have happened if I had been interviewed by someone who didn't dare to be wrong, someone who depended on certificates instead of personal assessment ... someone more shrouded in testicular fragility.

Looking back, as I found myself doing when talking to Donna, I was rather pleased. Of course, it had been a different time, a time when a college degree was not a sine qua non for employment, but still ... I had pretty much been a prove-by-doing type.

A college degree is no good unless you haven't got one. There are more of them than us, so I will push my younger son to reel in a degree. But I am fortunate to have lived in a time less rife with paper trails. I would have done something if Donna had charted a course more to my liking, but she didn't and I don't really mind. It's like levitation -- what the hell would you do with it if you had it?

I am mildly pleased to have put a period on that sentence.


  1. And then, there is the kicker:

    'I'm sorry. We know you doing the job, but we can't interview you for the position...because you don't have the RIGHT degree.'

  2. As is oft repeated in the I-Ching, "Persistence in a righteous course brings reward."

    Check this out:

    Forget Tuition: How Retirees Can Attend College for Free


    Also, search through the AARP web site.

    Truth is since you have no practical use for the useless and overpriced degree you'd probably be better served by auditing courses that strike your fantasy.

  3. I've got a high school diploma somewhere, some other fancy proofs of study and training, but prefer art on my walls to credentials. I quit college to be a hippy, and settled for a book store education. I finished life as a handyman who managed Berkeley rents and raised a few families. Now i'm retired on 40 acres in the sierra's. I'd rather took out a window than at a diploma. I'd rather look out a window than go back to school for that matter.