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OPINION: Leaving College

When I was nineteen years old, I decided to take a leave of absence from college. That was seven years ago.

I remember it clearly: I was nearing completion of my first academic year at college, and my passion for structured learning had begun to wane.

I was feeling a need for something different - something more "real," something geared towards helping me to gain a little perspective on why I was in school in the first place and what I really wanted to get out of life.

So, I left. I said goodbye to my new friends and walked away from college.

There is some truth to the saying that college serves as a very expensive babysitter for young adults not yet prepared to be adult.

I embarked on a leave of absence that I knew would last as long as it took for me to feel excited again about the whole process of academic learning.

It has been just over seven years since I made that decision. I can say that leaving college was among the best decisions of my life. Since then, I have traveled to China, South Africa, and Western Europe. I have worked as a carpenter, a writer, and a political campaigner. I have taken risks in the realm of relationships. I have studied all manner of things on my own, and tracked down intellectual leads that I could not have easily tracked down while at school. In short, I have made a school of life. After all these years, I am now planning to return to college, since my passion for focused learning has returned. I am ready for academia again.

I would champion the unorthodox idea that young people should consider taking breaks from the standard conveyor-belt-like procession of higher education. Truly, students should consider taking time to "survey their situation." They should not be so obsessed with "getting ahead" in the job market that they behave like rats on a spin wheel: moving constantly, but going nowhere (at least in terms of happiness, which is where it counts the most).

I realize that this idea scares some. Indeed, I have encountered this fear first hand. When I decided to leave college, many said: "If you leave, you may never go back again." When I left anyway, they said: "The longer you stay away, the more likely it is that you will not go back." I see the logic of this idea. But, I think that it does not apply to all people. Certainly, the opposite has been true for me: the longer I have stayed away from school, the more prepared for taking full advantage of school, and life, I have become.

Yes, I resonate more with the idea that "education is wasted on the young," though I would put it more positively, like this: "efficiency of learning increases with age, and maturity."

There is some truth to the saying that college serves as a very expensive babysitter for young adults not yet prepared to be adult. And, often, if the young adult was an achiever in school, that young adult may well be very tired. It may be fourteen years of pre-schooling, elementary, middle and high school labors. Fourteen years of pressure with homework assignments and test preparations always hanging over their heads. Add to that the burdens of the so-called fun activities: dating, debating, sports, band and theatre. And college comes along at the exact moment when one is expected to turn from a child into an adult. Talk about pressure!

I think that we should be more open, as individuals and a society, to the idea of young people learning from "real world" experiences, at an age when these experiences stand a chance of informing their adult lives. If we do, I think that our kids could end up smarter, happier, and generally better off.

Adapted from an Opinion by Danny Paul as submitted to www.thecoolgroup.org

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Picking On The Old Folks Humor



Two medical students were walking along the street when they saw an old man walking with his legs spread apart.

One of the students said to his friend: "I'm sure he has Petrie's Disease. Those people walk just like that."

The other student says: "No, I don't think so.. The old man surely has Hanson's Syndrome. He walks just as we learned in class."

Since they couldn't agree they decided to ask the old man. They approached him and one of the students said to him: "We're medical students and couldn't help but notice the way you walk, but we couldn't agree on the condition you might have. Could you tell us what it is?"

The old man said: "I'll tell you, but first tell me what you think it is."

One of the students said: "I think it's Petrie's Disease."

The old man said: "You thought.......... but you are wrong."

Then, the other student said: "I think you have Hanson's Syndrome."

The old man said: "You thought.......... but you are wrong.

So, they asked him: "Well, what do you have?"

The old man said: "I thought it was GAS........... but I was wrong, too!"

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