A Degree in What?

You can sleep with a gun…When you gonna wake up and fight?

I chose not to go to college and, to toot my own horn, I have gotten far beyond what a degree would have provided me through my own drive, hustle, and integrity. My life isn’t easy; it’s not supposed to be. I make sacrifices everyday to build a better life for myself, both now and in the future, and I strive never to sacrifice the principles that guide me on my way.

Now life has taught me to not deal with everything in absolute terms. Very few things in life are absolute, so I would just like to point out the facts the way I understand them. Hopefully you all will think on them and make your own judgement.

Life is a warfare. Even the tiniest victories of virtue, belief, and success are hard-fought and won with sweat, tears and pain. Looking back over history, we see that we are the warriors. Every warrior needs extensive training and formation in discipline, but where are we formed and trained for our war? The answer is simple: our formation starts in the home and continues with primary education and religious instruction. Then, too soon, the real war begins—you apply for college and set out to get the degree you want, and you’re thrown right into the frenzy of battle.

But are you ready? More than that, do you even need to be in this battle?

The thirst for truth is inherent in us, and once upon a time, the university was the ideal place to go for satiating this thirst and deepening knowledge. Today, education in general is considered a necessary step in career development. Few and far between are people who go to college simply for the love of the truth. The necessities of life drive us to seek higher education as the first step in building a career.

Seeing that nowadays higher education serves for most of us as a means to an end, and holding onto the principle that the end doesn’t justify the means, we have to make moral and practical judgments about college based on certain questions like: Do the pros outweigh the cons? Is college worth it for the vast majority of young people? Is it necessary for the goals I have set in my life?

Let’s start with a very practical observation. The easiest way to get ahead in life is to avoid significant debt. A college loan is one of the most significant causes of debt, and unfortunately too many high school graduates don’t have the maturity to understand or haven’t been taught its risk and burden. The average college loan of under $40,000 might not seem massive, but the whole body of student loans amounts to a mind boggling 1.5 trillion dollars, the second largest consumer debt segment in the nation.

To make the problem worse, recent statistics show that over 16% are in either delinquency or default. It would seem from this evidence that college isn’t quite the foolproof careerbuilder that so many consider it to be, nor is it forming youth to become responsible citizens. So, do yourself a favor and don’t get a college loan if you can help it, and be that responsible citizen who pays his debts on time.

Those of you who were blessed to grow up in Catholic tradition have had outstanding formations. You were raised by good parents, your religious instruction was superb, and in many cases your primary education was excellent. You are a Catholic youth well formed in doctrine, philosophy, moral and social teaching, so off you go to college. Immediately you are attacked by every kind of modern ideology: radical feminism, secularism, materialism, scientism, moral relativism, and socialism, just to name a few. You think education is about learning the truth, examining reality, and freely debating diverse ideas. You think you’re there learning the arts or sciences, and don’t realize that you are being indoctrinated in these ideologies.

Examine yourself now on how you react to current events, cultural movements, or a differing opinion. Is it still based upon solid doctrine, or have false principles subtly affected your thinking? Ideas are powerful; when they grip you they can affect your whole being, so embracing a modern idea will change you. Soon you think not so much as a Catholic, but as a left leaning progressive, or worse, your mind subconsciously synthesizes a pseudo-Catholic progressive worldview which you still believe is authentic doctrine or spirituality.

How did you get to this? More often than not, it’s because of the allure of easy success that college offers. Since you will succeed if only you conform, you choose not to forge your own path and be a warrior. But do the benefits of a degree outweigh the intellectual dangers to which they expose you?

You have to build success; you can’t learn it in a book or be gifted it on a piece of paper. The mentality that you should go to college, get a degree, and then your life will just unfold before you effortlessly is pervasive in our society. You plug yourself into whatever job comes along, and assume this will get you where you need to be in life.

That is not true. Success in the workplace is determined by building and maintaining positive relationships, having an outstanding work ethic, being a team player, always striving to be the best, and improving yourself constantly. You will note that mastering any one of these does not require a degree.

Maybe you can avoid large college debts, liberal institutions, and maintain integrity while getting the degree you want. Awesome. But I encourage you to pause and reflect, and to weigh all things in the balance. Use your talent, your energy, your virtue to achieve what you want; this could very well mean skipping the college degree. But choose a path for yourself which will neither sacrifice your belief or your character, nor leave you impoverished for years.

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