Wherever I see this written, I have to stop and think about the incredible degree of hubris a person needs to feel comfortable with making it.
I suspect that there are many, many people who did not find the education process helpful, or who have not, later in their lives, learned to value it in new ways that reflect insights they’ve gathered with time.
For me, my university years were absolutely invaluable in helping me do exactly what you describe: learn what it means to learn.
Of course, I myself approach this from a privileged position: I did not have to finance my own education, and I did not take on any debt. I was prepared by my parents and by my secondary education to use my university experience to the best advantage, which I did, at the risk of seeming arrogant, much better than most other students.
I can perfectly well picture university being a waste of time for some people- just as it’s a waste of time to go to a barber if you have no hair, or more importantly, if you can’t recognize how and why the barber can do a better job than you can looking in your own mirror. Not to mention there are plenty of bad barbers in the world mucking up the question further.
But it’s the height of arrogance to declare that because university does not work for all, it is therefore “irreparably broken.” Few things are “irreperably broken.” But suggesting that it is, also demands one assume that its purpose, as you described it, is not worth the effort to fix the vehicle that conveys it. I simply don’t see any evidence that this is true.
Talk about student debt. Talk about university finances, talk about sports, or sexual abuse, or anything wrong with universities -there are many- but it’s unsupportably high-handed to dismiss a concept which has shaped intellectual development in the modern world for nearly 1000 years.
William Blake, Jimi Hendrix, HP Lovecraft, Leonardo Da Vinci, James Watt and Alan Moore are all autodidacts.
The majority never finished school, not one of them finished a degree course.
This is cherry picking. It’s also either inaccurate or irrelevant: William Blake attended the Royal Academy, and earlier followed an apprenticeship to an engraver. Common paths to professional careers in the past.
Jimi Hendrix had a long apprenticeship as a guitarist, including with BB King. Again, no university program at the time (or now) functioned in his field as preparation for a career.
When he was 14 years old, Leonardo Da Vinci began an apprenticeship with Verrocchio, again, a common practice at that time, where university programs were no preparation for a practical career in arts. He was apprenticed for 7 years.
James Watt was in fact invited by the University of Glasgow to set up a workshop with them, when his skills at renewing old mechanical instruments were discovered by chance. He had already studied instrument making for a year in London at that time. One of the professors who sponsored Watt was Adam Smith.
Alan Moore had a famous dislike of formal education, brought on principally by the way he was treated by middle-class students when he performed well enough in school to attend an elite grammar school. That’s one.
In the sense that Universities can serve as nexus points for study, access to knowledge and interpersonal connections, resources, and support, a variety of alternatives are valid. Apprenticeships are only less common now because work is generally less based on manual skill than it once was.
“Working your way up,” is of course still a valid career path, but one very difficult to pursue in many of the fields that currently have the highest impact on society. And a clue for you here: most of what the world does is not tech startups. Most of the most productive and brilliant people in the world are professionals who attended school, who needed to go to school to gain the basic professionalism that got them started in their careers.
Only the wild and unchecked chauvinism of a coder and a Startuper would allow you to look objectively at the world economy, at human progress in the past 100 years, and say that anyone can achieve anything all on their own. It’s just not true. It’s true for you, in the limited way you define “anything,” and in your limited set of priorities. But it is not true for most of us.
One does not become a world-changing surgeon by “working his way up.” One does not become an astronaut by starting as a janitor at NASA. One does not discover new high-energy chemical processes or practical quantum mechanics applications by experimenting in their living rooms. Some research and work takes a lot of resources, and consequently, a lot of training on how to use them.