As the above photo found on the Fail Blog humorously notes, it’s definitely back to school time, and for students, while resistance is indeed likely futile, how much you’re assimilated into the leftwing collective is up to you. At the American Interest Website, Walter Russell Mead offers some excellent advice for those going “Back to School.” Here are two of the more noteworthy tips, but definitely read the whole thing:
2. Most of your elders know very little about the world into which you are headed.
Your parents and your teachers want what is best for you (with the usual regrettable exceptions), but in many cases they don’t understand the challenges you will face.
Especially for those of you who come from white-collar families, the kinds of careers that your parents have had may not be around for you.
Even if you go into the ‘learned professions’ you are going to have to be entrepreneurial and flexible. Technology is going to rock your world and economic changes and upheavals are going to change the rules on you over and over. This is not how the knowledge professions (law, medicine, teaching, the civil service) used to work. In the old days, you got the right degree from the right school, got a job with a good employer and rose steadily through the ranks through a long and increasingly distinguished career. At the end you had a safe pension.
Almost certainly, this is not going to happen to you. At times, your career is going to feel like Eliza’s run for freedom across the half-frozen Ohio river — jumping from ice floe to ice floe with the hounds of hell behind you. It won’t be all bad; there are rewards to this kind of life as well as risks, but you are going to need a different outlook on life and a different set of skills to cope.
Most faculty members, especially the tenured ones, have worked and lived in a world that is passing away. In many cases it’s hard for them to imagine the kind of lives you will live, and you need to keep this in mind. Even if you want to make a career in education, you are likely going to have to deal with an environment in which tenure is disappearing, universities are shedding overhead, and both public and private universities face tough revenue squeezes. Some especially vulnerable institutions (like mainline Protestant seminaries) are closing in droves; turmoil is likely to spread because the current financial path of the higher ed industry is as unsustainable as Medicare and the federal debt.
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Fifth, learn to write well. This paradoxically is going to be more important than ever for the next generation. I can’t tell you how many editors at how many famous magazines have told me over the years that most professors and academics simply cannot write, and bemoan the immense amount of time they must devote to impose some kind of intellectual structure and comprehensible prose on the crabbed drafts they get from, often, fairly well known people.
This will not last. Publications are not going to be able to continue paying editors to spin straw into gold; if you want to have a public voice in the next generation you are going to have to learn to write well. This is a hard skill to acquire, but it can be taught. Most schools don’t do this well; it is expensive and academics generally don’t value clear and attractive prose writing as much as they should. This is important enough that I would recommend you use it as a factor in choosing a college, but for those of you already enrolled, make a point of seeing what your school offers in this area.