This question about the value of college in today’s faltering economy seems to be a popular question that has been floating around the blogosphere lately. For me it has been a question floating in my mind since graduating from college in 2004, primarily because my college experience was very lackluster to say the least.
I went to college to improve my chances for success in life, however my “higher education” did the exact opposite. While in school I was treated more like a customer than a student. I was simply a cog in the machine sent through the conveyor belt of the diploma mill. I graduated college with a futile education, a worthless piece of paper, and a mountain of student loan debt. College definitely didn’t prepare me for the real world like I naively believed it was supposed to do. It turned me into a debt slave and greatly hindered my chances to live the American Dream. Sadly, millions of other Americans are in a similar boat.
In order to get myself out of this damn boat, I have had to live an unconventional life since graduating from college. It’s been one hell of a struggle. I’ve basically had to live off the grid and teach myself how to be a documentary filmmaker, all with the hope that I can use my self-taught knowledge to get myself out of this deep, deep hole I’m stuck in. This year the stars finally aligned in my favor and I now find myself working on a feature documentary about the need for higher education reform in this country. It’s titled The Elephant on Campus. My goal with this movie is to raise awareness about the need for reform, inspire change, give people like me a voice, and hopefully help prevent others from falling into the trap I fell into by believing the myth that college is the only path to success.
Instead of telling our kids that they must go to college, we should be providing them with a wide range of options that include apprenticeships, mentorships, and other real-life experiences. It’s time to acknowledge that forcing young adults to sit in classrooms and listen to pompous, indifferent professors spew arcane, irrelevant knowledge isn’t an efficient and effective way to learn how to be successful in today’s real world.
The ivory tower that once loomed high above our nation is crumbling and the sooner people realize it needs fixed the better off our nation will be for generations to come. Of course this is no small task. One of the most eye-opening things I’ve learned since I started shooting this documentary is that higher education is, in many ways, a sacred institution with a delusional belief system similar to organized religion. Telling people that higher education is broken is a lot like telling Christians that Jesus isn’t real. It will take nothing less than a monumental paradigm shift in the way Americans think about higher education. It has slowly started to happen and I hope I can do my part of “adding fuel to the fire” by making this documentary.
Here’s a teaser video:
How would you like to see higher education be reformed and what experience in your life best prepared you for adult life?
——————————————————————————————————————————————Michael Newman has been a self-taught DIY filmmaker for over 10 years. He works as a one-man-band out of necessity, not b/c he wants to. He has created more than 50 shorts and 4 features, mostly in the genres of comedy, documentary, and avant-garde [some of this no-budget work can be seen here]. The Elephant on Campus is his first social issue documentary. He’s currently in production on 2 other feature DIY documentaries. His work has been broadcasted on MTV Italy, Comedy Central, and the Independent Film Channel. He was inspired to become a filmmaker when he randomly picked up a video camera his sophomore year in college, taped his drunken friends, and discovered the closest thing to a personal calling that he has ever experienced.