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10 of Kathy Shaidle’s Greatest Hits

These are some of the Canadian culture critic's most memorable broadsides and inspiring provocations. Volume 1.

Kathy Shaidle


April 26, 2014 - 3:30 pm
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5. April 12, 2012:

Why Skipping College Was One of the Smartest Decisions of My Life

And here are some Worthless tips for choosing your major.

“I didn’t.”

That’s my answer when someone asks me where I went to college. Thirty years after I made that fateful decision, the words still stick in my throat sometimes.

Why didn’t I — a naturally bright, unnaturally well-read kid in my high school’s “advanced” stream — go to university (as we call “college” up here in Canada) and get a BA?

For one thing, it was the Reagan era. Every night on the news (not to mention talk shows and comedy programs), we were assured that Ronald Reagan was about to  start World War 3. Roll your eyes if you like, but plenty of people older and supposedly smarter than I purported to believe that.

Next: Never mind that wailing Zuni doll from Trilogy of Terror, or any of the other scary stuff readers share at What horrified me on TV when I was a kid? The Paper Chase (1973). The middlebrow saga of a guy’s struggle to get through law school — hell, his struggle to get from one end of his vast Ivy League campus to the next without being late for his next class and getting insulted by John Houseman at his withering best (or is that worst?) — genuinely terrified me.

Probably because — reason #3 — no one in my family had gone to college. In fact, I was the first one to finish high school. Filling out applications, applying for grants, moving into a dorm — you might as well have been talking about a voyage to the moon.

OK, so those reasons sound pretty stupid. But not going to university was one of the smartest decisions of my life.

Instead, I graduated from a two-year media program at a community college, armed with an award-winning writing and production portfolio. In an era of double-digit unemployment and interest rates, I got my first “real” job at a Toronto communications firm pretty easily, and paid off my relatively puny student loans in short order (unlike some of my friends, who got BAs — then declared bankruptcy). I’d say 90% of the jobs I’ve ever held have been in my field.

When it comes to college, Aaron Clarey and I agree about a lot. He blogs as “Captain Capitalism” and just wrote the book Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major.

Today, we have more and more people chasing more and more worthless degrees. For those of us without either children or degrees ourselves, the spectacle resembles nothing short of a zombie movie, set during Tulipmania.

Reading Worthless was spooky at times. Like me, Clarey’s been saying for years that BAs are today what high school diplomas used to be: that is, so commonplace that not having one makes no difference if you’re a genius, an energetic entrepreneur, or both.

Like me, he believes too many people are being pushed into getting a degree (i.e., brainwashed in junk science and political correctness at their own expense) when they should be learning a trade or just plain left alone.

And like me, Clarey thinks lots of would-be students should use the money they’re wasting on tuition as start-up capital instead.

Some will object that his tips on choosing your college major — should you insist on going to university despite everything — are simply common sense. Yet we all know supposedly “smart” young people from middle and upper class backgrounds (and who should therefore “know better”) who nevertheless voluntarily wasted tens of thousands of dollars to go to J-school or get a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and who are now back living with their parents.

(Note: Once I moved out at age 21, I never moved “back home,” even after coming down with an incurable disease. In my day, all of two decades ago, living with mom and dad after age 25 at most simply wasn’t done.)

Anyway, here are some of Clarey’s tips on choosing your college major….

Speaking of those kids “everybody knows,” above, haven’t you noticed how many of them tell you (or that reporter from Forbes or Time) that they’re “shocked” and “surprised” that they can’t get jobs, in spite of having a brand new college degree?

They’ve been told all their lives that getting a degree meant they’d be guaranteed a job after graduation. Their guidance counselors had the charts and graphs to prove it!

Then I’m the one who is “shocked” and “surprised” after I hear this stuff. First of all, jokes about “philosophy majors driving taxi cabs” or “flipping burgers” were stale when I first started hearing them back in the 1970s.

Secondly: if your guidance counselor is so smart, how come he’s just a guidance counselor…?

As Clarey explains in Worthless: yes, in general, people with degrees earn more than people who just have a high school diploma — BUT only those who have degrees in fields of study that are in high demand in the real-life workforce.

Why oh why, progressives wail, do professional athletes earn millions more than teachers? Simple, Clarey answers: supply and demand.

There is a flood of teachers in the labor market and maybe 300 or so outstanding baseball players.

Clarey gets his students to list all the things they want or plan to buy in the near future. Predictably, they write down things like cars, gas, phones, and computers.

Then he asks them what they’re majoring in. Also predictably, they respond: Sociology. Women’s Studies. Political Science. Psychology. Education.

He notes:

Nobody was willing to study the fields that ultimately produced these items. (…) Everyone wanted gas, but not one petroleum engineer was in the group.

Clarey adds:

Also ironic was how there were so many sociology majors, but not one person listed “social work” in their wish list. There was always the token women’s studies major, but I have yet to see a student ask Santa for a lecture on women’s studies.

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You're taking this WAY to seriously. Star Wars is a kid's movie. Its not supposed to be realistic, its supposed to be fun....and its a ton of fun. Who cares if they have ray guns and sound in space? What counts is that they blast the bad guys to smithereens. Besides, who can resist Carrie Fisher in a metal bikini? You don't like George Lucas? Yeah, I bet he's weeping about that every time he looks at his bank statement. Get over yourself and stop whining about other people.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The FIRST Star Wars released is the only one worth watching... right from "empire" it was a merchandising machine that lost all appeal....

And Carrie was scrawny and loose in that bikini....too much weight loss too fast to be "sl*t-hot" by Hollywood standards, rather than showcase her natural beauty....that wholesome round-faced, almost Motherly Beauty she had with her hair down in the Medal Ceremony after destroying the first Death Star, is by far the loveliest moment of The Princess on screen.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
All of them are merchandising machines. Its kiddie entertainment, that's the point. My dad, and every other kid his age, had a Davy Crockett coon skin cap.....Star Wars is no different.

Scrawny? What, is this fat acceptance week? You can have Lena Dunham, I'll take Slave-Girl Leia any day of the week. I'll pass on motherly beauty, it does nothing for me. I like em slender, young, and underdressed.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, Kathy...

For all the reasons you mention, "star wars" (notice the lower case?) as it became a Social Phenomenon, does indeed suck, and in a rather embarrassing way for those of us who saw it in its first release, BUT….

The First (and, IMHO, only one worth watching) Original Release was a PHENOMENAL Motion Picture in and of itself. I’m sorry you slept through it. I'm sorry you weren’t old enough to see it before knowing nearly all about it. It was ruined for you, already a cliché before the theater darkened that night, and that my dear, is a very sad thing…

Because, for a certain generation of Adventurous Boys, ones who’s Dads and Uncles were in WW-2, kids who built endless models of Spitfires and Messerschmitt’s believing The Battle of Britain was the ultimate in manly, righteous chivalry, kids who ran home after school to watch Steve McQueen OWN those freaking Krauts (even after he got caught, AGAIN!) in “The Great Escape” playing on the 4:30 movie, like, three times a year for a decade…..

Well, for us, Star Wars (caps this time, sugar!) was THE culmination of every hero-fantasy we ever imagined, and by God, it was OURS. Not in black and white, not John Wayne on a horse, not some “tail end of the studio era” re-run of a movie that was originally released the year before we were even born….No. This one was Ours. Today. And it was GOOD.

Because it was, for one gleaming moment, a vision of who we KNEW we were supposed to be, reflected back at us for the first time, in REAL-time…

Cocky, idealistic, proud of our heritage, brave…militaristic in the POSITIVE sense, fighting the Krauts AND the Hessians all at once as Home-Spun Patriots taking to arms, but with Starships and Blasters instead of Muskets and Mustangs…

Star Trek was wierd, we didnt quite get it...Set for Stun, and The Prime Directive..who are the bad guys, are you going to kill these aliens or not? WTF are you DOING there in the FIRST place!?!

No, Star Wars was different...It was all of our fathers and big-brothers heroics transformed FOR US, even AHEAD of us, in a way we already understood, but though was only in the past…battles we never would be allowed to face, reduced to pretending to BE our fathers, when we knew we never could…No, Star Wars gave us a vision of Ourselves, Brave Into the Coming Future, and it was GOOD.

It was indescribably awesome to see in its original release, in a REAL theater, way before Darth and Luke and the Droids became embarrassing merchandise for effeminate geeks…right from that first opening scene (Oh. My. GOD! How big is that thing!?) to the fast-paced final battle, we saw who we could be, tomorrow…

Technically skillful AND Physically capable of necessary, righteous violence, with clear confidence to judge good from evil, to CHOOSE the right side, and to nobly face the possibility of Death, with Honor.

The Blessed Spitfire, that sacred ghost of a past we could not be worthy of, was an X-wing…. and the future would wait for us to fly her, in OUR time, we could fight evil, and too, be MEN.

Amazing stuff for a 12 year old, growing up in That Last Twilight of Real American Boyhood, between the Shadow of Viet Nam and The Dawn of The Nanny State….

Pity my son will never know of such things.

44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Root 83. That was an awesome post my friend. I completely agree with the sentiment, although for me that experience came from a different source. Ms. S. perhaps can't really understand this, tis a boy thing. FWIW I lived near an RAF base in 1972 and I can tell you that the memeory of the Spitfire was alive in the minds of many young English boys: when I saw one in the Imperal War Museum, I could think of NOTHING better than flying that thing over France and blasting away at the Messerschmidts.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Eightrock

What that film WAS and what it BECAME are so tragically opposite it makes me weep. I just tried to watch The Original with my own son for the first time on DVD, and the clumsy sacrilege of the Lucas Ego has utterly ruined it.

We will see no more of this franchise in our household....

Spits, Hurricanes, Mosquito's, Lancasters, I built them all...and lets not forget the Swordfish pilots who crippled the Bismarck...if ever a tiny fleet was sent to battle The Death Star, it was they...and you do know much of the "combat dialog" in S.W. was straight from "the Dam Busters" right?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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