Al's a-Musing: What you really learn in college

To those of you graduating this fall semester, congratulations. You deserve the most genuine pat on the back I can muster. You have learned a great deal through your collegiate education. You have struggled, studied, tested and written your way through some of the most difficult classes on campus, and that should be commended.

I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that those classes are forgotten now. Anyone who can regurgitate half of what they had to know for their QL credit is impressive, so long as you’re not working with math all day. For those people, writing a paper is most likely a terrifying task, much like double-digit multiplication for me. Yes, our generals have served us well. Not because I know the difference between a shield and cinder cone volcano, or because I can list five (make that four; I was overestimating my ability) generals who fought in the Civil War, but rather because we learned the truest definition of Machiavellianism.

For most of us, the majority of our generals, and even good portions of our major classes, will be an exercise in subservience. Regardless of what your professor tells you about the incredible relevance of upper-division math, the only thing that course will give you is a check within CatTracks. There are some courses that are relevant, but at the dusk of your collegiate study, you will look back and see them shining against the blackness of the obsequious sky.

I don’t want to depress you, or for you to think that my previous congratulations were false. I meant nothing but the most generous of praises. You have made it through some of the most bureaucratic nonsense ever contrived, and that is something to be proud of.

I mean no disrespect to Weber State. This wonderful school has a relative pragmatism to be admired. Higher education as a whole has become a slinky of hoops to jump through, all for the promise of a more fulfilling life at the end of that metaphoric spring. A single piece of paper grants people opportunities that are prized, opens doors of employment, and usually grants access to different tax brackets. My potential employer couldn’t care less about my general botany courses. Truthfully, as a music major, my potential employer probably doesn’t care about my degree. But they will care that I have one. Why? This brings us back what you learned through those classes, in that Machiavellianism comes with a tenacity and intellect to see things that need to be done. It teaches how to survive. It teaches you how to think. It teaches you how to learn things that are seemingly useless in the pursuit of that which is not. It is, in fine, a representation of all of the skills that an employer is looking for, summarized in a piece of paper, with another line saying you know something about a certain subject.

So, to all of you who will be getting that degree this semester or in the next, I commend you. You have learned to play the game, and play it well. You have developed the survival skills and flexibility necessary to be deemed worthy to contribute to society on an educated platform. I hope you do just that. Regardless of your grades in Math 1050, or your typos within your English 2010 thesis, or the science questions that you couldn’t understand if your life depended on it, you passed, which means that it doesn’t matter anymore. You’ve been accepted. Congratulations.