Find the seedy underbelly of college

Forget about the ranting Rollerdiva, the power-crazed squirrels and the mysterious, gruesome source of University-sponsored food. We are actually a part of a larger, even more pervasive conspiracy that is so obvious no one notices it anymore.
Its origins are shadowy, but its growth has been phenomenal. Beginning as the brainchild of a number of unknown creators, it has succeeded in penetrating every nation around the globe. It is deeply seeded in society’s collective subconscious and its proponents are smugly confident in its invisible, yet overwhelming, power. It is called COLLEGE — the Conspiracy to Overthrow Learning, Literacy, Education, Gumption and Efficiency, and every one of us, from undergraduate to post-doctorate, has been victimized.
The originators of the conspiracy have all but erased their identities, but their awesome influence is globular. They are involved in an international network whose ultimate goal is to eliminate all individuality and free thought. These conspirators have touched everyone’s lives, not only through COLLEGE but also through advertising, politics, entertainment and practically anything that has been mass-produced or mass-distributed. Every fad or rage can be traced back to the unknown collaborators and, day by day, originality and independence are becoming extinct.
In the realm of education, the conspirators have been astonishingly effective in achieving their goals. They serve as the monstrous public relations firm representing universities around the world and have successfully indoctrinated almost every member of society into actively supporting higher education. Parents begin saving for their children’s educations even before their first child is born, while dedicated high schoolers scramble over each other to be accepted into Ivy League universities. Many career fields require at least a two-year degree for even entry-level jobs, and for the most prestigious positions, only Ph.D. candidates are worthy of competing. The necessity and worth of a higher education have been so strongly ingrained into our collective subconscious we no longer question it.
Step back a moment and evaluate your student life. If you assume an entirely objective and detached attitude toward a student’s lifestyle, you will realize the world of college is purely, absolutely insane. Students sacrifice everything for an education: money, financial futures, youth and individualism.
The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but somehow students seem to have missed the celebration. For nine months each year they forfeit their freedom to the University and place themselves in bondage. They voluntarily submit themselves to the slave drivers of academia and quietly toil away at the most strenuous labor. The calloused minds on campus could easily compare to the rough hands of any farmer or field worker.
The madness continues after they graduate. They will proudly list their period of mental self-mutilation on their rÇsumÇs and, as the conspiracy has so decreed, their ultimate success will depend on how imaginatively cruel they were to themselves. The more ingenious the mental strain to which they subjected themselves, the greater the possibility they will be chosen for that lucrative internship or that sought-after residency.
Besides their freedom, they deliberately surrender their youth and idealism. They spend the prime of their lives rotting away at the University — anywhere from four to ten years may be devoted to their masochistic tendencies. Consider the sleepless nights before a calculus test, the hours of programming in front of a cold and unsympathetic monitor and the tears of desperation before a chemistry final. The crushing responsibilities, the piercing stress and the self-imposed neurotic lifestyle drain the gentle blush of youth and replace it with cynical, red-rimmed eyes and caffeinated bloodstreams.
But we can only appreciate the full force of the conspiracy’s sadistic brilliance when we realize students are actually maxing out credit cards and student loans for this opportunity of rare torture. Think about for what exactly they are indenturing themselves — why exactly they garnish every paycheck over the next twenty years to loan payments. They practically donate their money to the University for the prime opportunity to waste even more money on school supplies, textbooks and health insurance.
Tuition pampers professors with well-stocked refrigerators, suburban homes and privileged parking spots, while students subsist on Ramen noodles, live three to an efficiency apartment and bike to school during blizzards. Every day they attend the worship services known as lectures, where professors pose on their tenured ivory pedestals, enlighten the ignorant masses to the “one true way” and basically enjoy a major ego-trip.
How do students respond? They hang on every word that drops from a professor’s lips and take down detailed notes for further study and memorization. They pay for this! They want to pay for this! At least that is what we’ve been told.
This loss of individualism and the ability to critically analyze is the culminating injustice perpetrated by COLLEGE and its creators. After cramming to meet deadlines and finish English reports, a student’s already-pathetic existence leaves barely enough time to sleep, let alone to self-reflect or self-analyze.
Sadly, most students just give up. They lose their initiative and motivation to actually think for themselves. Instead of encouraging students to actively consider their surroundings or offering advice on how to lead a rewarding life, the University drills us on how to conform, how to follow rules and how to accept authority without question.
Academic diets are worse than those of a baby — the established viewpoints are bland and indigestible, the portions are stingy and the entire meal is being spoon fed without the slightest concern whether it reaches mouths or ends up splattered on some other body part. If the University were a parent, there would be some serious negligence charges.
As in any relationship, though, the University is not the only institution to blame, nor are the international conspirators entirely at fault. The responsibility rests with students to recognize and to break away from this self-destructive pattern.
Students need to utilize what independent and individualist brain cells they might have left. To immediately swallow the ideas of others without first chewing them over and deciding whether they are worthy enough to nourish the mind is inexcusably lazy. Students must make the effort to fully understand their intellects, motivations and personal constructions of reality. The more they learn about themselves, the more they will understand each other.
While students immerse themselves in schoolwork and class concerns, they should take a few minutes to mull over their role at the University and in general society. As the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates so aptly stated, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Realize your full potential as a critically thinking individual and probe the multiple possibilities that exist outside the University in the real world.
Who knows? Maybe if enough students begin to understand the inner mechanics and gear-workings of COLLEGE, we will someday be able to dismantle this network of propaganda and eventually liberate millions of brainwashed students. Perhaps in the future, we will realize that we need not resort to self-inflicted pain in order to succeed in this world. We only have to act and think for ourselves.

Samantha Pace’s column appears on alternate Fridays. She welcomes comments to [email protected]