College

does not make you a better person.

I’m reading a review copy of an interesting new book from Bob Zimmerman on the history of slavery in America. One of the points he makes is that one of the things that created the cultural environment for it was the nature of how the Cavaliers founded Virginia, with the class bias and denigration of physical labor they brought from England.

15 thoughts on “College”

  1. It’s important to remember the eastern seaboard of what’s now the US had three disparate cultural origins. New England and Virginia were very different, with colonists coming from different areas of England. In between were the Dutch and Swedish riverine colonies. What’s seldom appreciated is that the “frontier” lifestyle so a part of the American mythos originated with Finnish transportees brought in by the Swedes, who were anxious to get them out of Sweden proper. The Finns’ physical appearance and lifetsyle fit in well with the Delaware-speaking Indians (such as the Leni Lenape) and spread through the developing mixed population of the frontier, and later into the evolving “Midwest.”

    As for college, I went to Northern Virginia Community College for a while (waste of time) and a few years later took classes the University of New Hampshire (I learned to speak Japanese, nothing else worthwhile). So I’m not a college graduate, nor did that fact much affect my success in life (maybe only the denial of access to some aspects of social networking?). My perception is, the reasonably intelligent boys and girls I knew in high school went away to “university” for four years and came back blithering idiots who couldn’t think their way out of a brown paper bag. That includes the ones who went on to become doctors and lawyers. It really makes me wonder…

    1. Your book “Alpha Centauri”, co-written with Michael Capobianco, has lots of interesting science hooks. For example, far too many science fiction writers regard the stars’ position relative to each other as static, whereas in your book, Alpha Centauri is depicted as once much more distant from us, and it is acknowledged that it will be again. Far too many science fiction writers don’t take into account the geophysical effects of the passage of time, whereas in your book, a world with tectonic plates is depicted as once active and now stilled, with significant implications for the biosphere And so on. For a book with plenty of “soft SF” psychological insights (including a really impressively-written depiction of depression), and for a book which is chock-full of bizarre, and, I assume, intentionally disturbing sex scenes, there is a surprisingly large amount of science content.

      Can you say anything about your informal education in physics, astronomy, and other science fields? Do you think your science fiction would have been much different if you had pursued a university degree in a science field? I actually don’t care if you answer the specific question I’m asking or not – I’m just hoping you’ll say something about how in the world you wrote your books, and if you can tie that into your educational background, great. Thanks!

      1. I’ll keep this brief. Basically you’re asking how I came to be a successful autodidact polymath and how that applies to writing books.

        So, my superpower is, I read well, that is to say rapidly, with high comprehension and retention. And it became clear to me by the time I was in 9th grade that there was something seriously wrong with me, academically. Lucky for me, ADHD and Asperger’s weren’t invented yet, so I wasn’t drugged into a stupor. I flunked my way to the end of high school, and somewhere along the way, got in the habit of buying certain textbooks, rather than merely renting them. Looking back, I realize I bought the ones for the classes I was having the most trouble with. I think I figured when I needed to know something I hadn’t learned, I could look it up or something, and eventually discovered I was learning where things were in my books. That led to becoming a good library researcher.

        I did make a couple of attempts at higher education, and took all the basic science courses the local CC offered (biology, physics, chemistry, zoology, anthropology, etc.) and after getting a low grade in each class, the text joined my collection. Later, I went to a tech school, where I learned to weld and studied metallurgy. It went on like that for years. Finally, around 1980, I realized I could just buy textbooks. and also figure out what other superpowers I might have. Did you know you can decode written Chinese using a broken-stroke dictionary? Or that if you have a copy of Ramsay’s “Dynamics” you can figure out practically anything?

        Anyways, one specific: In the late 80s and into the middle 90s, Capobianco and I bought, between us, all the costly volumes of the University of Arizona Space Science Series. I knew him since fourth grade, and we always though the science in science fiction should be as accurate as possible, no matter what else it was about.

        1. Wow, that was a great answer. Thank you!

          ” we always though the science in science fiction should be as accurate as possible, no matter what else it was about.”

          And that right there is why I bought all of your books. Thank you for lots of enjoyable reading.

  2. Ahh, is that the reworking of his thesis? He said something about it a while back when there was a good conversation in the comments of his blog and how he might dust it off and do something with it. Good to know he is making progress.

  3. “My perception is, the reasonably intelligent boys and girls I knew in high school went away to “university” for four years and came back blithering idiots who couldn’t think their way out of a brown paper bag.”

    Yeah well I knew/know a lot of people who went through 4 years of university and they are not blithering idiots. Of course I work in the aerospace field so blithering idiots usually don’t gravitate there.

    Up until the last 5 years or so (maybe a little more) my view was that college is what YOU – the student – make of it. You want to go there and learn how to think and get a well rounded education with perhaps a focus on something that provides a livelyhood – you can do it.

    Yo still can – if you go into engineering or one of the sciences.

    But English, poly sci, history, liberal arts? You can still make something out of it but there’s massive viscosity in that the SJW teachers and administration thwart clear thinking in every way.

  4. I have just this summer discovered that the political correctness straitjacket imposed on the faculty prevents them from teaching students to handle the real world. We hired an intern and found the disconnects to be amazing. One of our standard field jokes ran a professor out of the room. “I can’t be here when something like that is said” and left.

    I have trouble understanding how my non-pc humor can affect his job.

    1. If an SJW hears him and he doesn’t denounce you, that’s the same as him telling the joke himself, is my guess.

  5. For me, one of the interesting things is how much identity people have tied up in their school. Most of my clients were in RTPNC, where there’s an enormous contingent of Penn State grads, who seemed to talk about little else. It was like, instead of college, they went to Manchester United or the Boston Red Sox.

      1. You realize that you can make an irritating Aggie go away just by paying him for the pizza?

        One of the managers I worked with a Neiman Marcus was an Aggie and she kept the Aggie joke book on her desk. ^_^

        Most all of them trivially translate to any university, and I image that someone had a little cottage industry of selling the same basic joke book in every college bookstore.

  6. I went to MIT about 45 years ago. The people there were brilliant; they were doing creative things and had amazing hobbies, and they were all working their butts off. I don’t think they were blithering idiots either before they went or after they left…although a fair number were hopelessly inept socially. 🙂

  7. I’m pretty sure the graduates of Emerson feel the same way about their alma mater. People place great stock in anything they can see as personal achievement, regardless of what it is.

    1. Ah, except I didn’t actually graduate from there, so I cannot claim it as a personal achievement! But the people I met there truly were brilliant, and no doubt many of them went on to great accomplishments, blithering or not.

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