THE DUMBEST FUCKING THING I’VE EVER READ

Jordan Anaya
11 min readJul 19, 2016

Knowledge comes at a cost. The more you learn the wider your eyes open. This allows you to see further, but you start to see ugly details that you couldn’t before. And you notice how many people are blind to these problems and their unknowing contributions to them. It becomes harder and harder to find people you respect, causes you believe in. Some days you wonder if you would be happier if you never opened your eyes and were also blissfully ignorant. Today is not one of those days.

I was perusing my Twitter timeline and had the displeasure of running into this tweet:

I wanted to reply that someone with a bachelor’s degree could easily make more money than someone doing a PhD, but I clicked on the tweet just to make sure some like-minded people hadn’t already thoroughly rebutted this garbage. Luckily a sentient person had already expressed my thoughts, so I liked their tweet and replied “exactly”. I immediately got a response that I should read more of the thread. I had already taken in more of the thread than is medically safe, so I replied “I’ve read enough”. And with that I was blocked and liberated from never having to see this person’s thoughts again.

I don’t think I’ve been blocked on Twitter before, but as one of the best students to ever attend UC Berkeley, and as someone who is currently performing historically significant work, I could not care less what other people think, especially what some random person who plays with bugs at a state school I’ve never heard of thinks. I have better things to worry about. However, this tweet received over 200 likes and 100 retweets, and I’ve seen blog posts echo a similar sentiment, so I thought I would nip this idea in the bud before it spreads like a disease.

Put your seat belts on because this is going to be a long ride.

Let’s just start with some simple facts. A Google search reveals that someone with a bachelor’s degree in math and sciences has a starting salary of 55k. I know for a fact that a lab technician position, which is basically what you would be doing in graduate school but with better hours, can pay 40k or more.

Okay, so what do PhD students make? It can range, but it is probably between 20 and 30k. And if you decide to do a master’s degree, which might be necessary for your PhD, you won’t be paid. In fact, you will be paying them. So it appears we have already deep-sixed this tweet.

I can hear you. That’s right bitch, you. No, not you. YOU. YOU think I’m ignorant.

I’m not. I’m just not an idiot.

You are going to argue that these figures don’t apply to everyone. And you’re right. In fact, they only apply to people who can get jobs!

You are going to say that because your students are minorities they aren’t taken seriously and it is more difficult for them to get jobs. And you are going to say that the college they went to may not be very prestigious and may not have a very good history of landing students high paying jobs, or any jobs at all. And that it will be easier for them to get into a PhD program which will provide a stable income. And you may be right again.

So you’ve already managed to trick these students into paying for a useless degree and now you are trying to convince them to double down and go get another one? This is like selling someone a house you know they can’t afford and then happily offering them a second mortgage. You piece of shit.

This may be difficult for some people to hear, but someone has to say it. Just as not everyone should buy an expensive house, not everyone should get a PhD. In fact, not everyone should even go to college in the first place.

Just like the housing crisis, there is a student debt crisis. And what do these two crises have in common? Some people made a shitload of money by manipulating the mentality of the buyers. Everyone was convinced that buying a house was an excellent investment, and right now everyone is convinced that education is an essential investment that will change their lives.

To see an extreme example of this all you have to do is listen to one of the DeVry commercials I’ve heard thousands of times on my Spotify. Luckily there are several parodies of these.

Wait, did I just compare your state school to DeVry? Yep, deal with it motherfucker.

If the best paying job that your graduates can get is as a trainee in a PhD program then your school should be shut down. When a business does not provide the services it promises it usually doesn’t do very well. But schools have become immune to this because they have led a masterful propaganda campaign the last several decades.

From a young age it’s ingrained in us that if we don’t go to college we will be a failure and will be working at McDonald’s for the rest of our lives. We’ve been told that no matter how hard we try we won’t be able to make more than minimum wage without a degree.

And just in case that wasn’t enough, we’ve been mindfucked to view college as an essential life experience that is necessary for personal growth and that it will be the best four years of our lives. To live up to this claim colleges allow, nay, encourage, the existence of fraternities which hold parties where everyone knows there will be underage drinking, illegal drugs, and sexual assault.

Okay, so maybe you aren’t a piece of shit, maybe you are just an idiot and actually think that by working at a state school you are helping people. I mean, these people will be the first in their family to get a degree. That has to mean something right? Maybe their children will be more likely to get a degree, and so on and so on until their family has finally “made it”.

Maybe you show up to the graduations and see all the moms crying tears of joy. Maybe you give your students one final hug and take a selfie with them. Maybe you get some famous person to give a commencement speech telling them they can do anything they set their mind to because of the piece of paper they’ve just been given.

But what exactly is everyone celebrating? Allow me to tell you.

I’m from California, I have some homies who went to state school. A surprisingly large number of their classes were online (not sounding so different from DeVry now is it?), and not surprisingly this allowed them to just copy each other’s work. Even when they didn’t have online classes a lot of their tests would be take home, and I would just take the tests for them! Nothing wrong with helping a brother out, na mean?

And were these tests hard? Not exactly. I’m pretty sure I could have aced them when I was in 7th or 8th grade. Granted, these were not students getting bachelor’s of science degrees, but with what I’ve seen I’m not optimistic those courses would have been much more difficult.

So that gets back to the original question. What are we celebrating when these people graduate?

We’re telling these students that their degree is the same as a degree from any other university. These students are made to believe that if they got GPA X at their state school they would have gotten the same GPA if they went to a real school like Berkeley. When in reality these people are lucky if they have the education level of a talented 8th grader and wouldn’t pass any course at Berkeley. And courses at Berkeley are pretty fucking easy. I wouldn’t have gotten 22 A+’s if they weren’t.

So go ahead and celebrate. But you’ve just made these students incur an unnecessary debt only to have them find out that their degrees are useless. And now you want to send these students to graduate school? Are you fucking mental?

Wait, what’s this, another insightful tweet:

Yep, you’re just retarded, like really fucking retarded. You were dropped on your head when you were young weren’t you? Sniff one too many markers? Aneuploidy?

You just asked if a PhD is better than a BS from a state school for job prospects. Let that sink in. Regardless of the degrees, I would hope that someone approaching thirty has a better resume than someone in their early twenties. Maybe they obtained a PhD in that time, or maybe they did something else.

I know someone without a high school diploma who managed to work their way all the up to Vice President of a company and now has garages full of expensive cars. Yes, most people can’t expect that kind of success, but the point is that everything has opportunity costs. And is doing a PhD really worth the opportunity costs for a student who attended a state school? Because the costs are large.

Graduate students don’t exactly receive world class training, or really any useful training at all. Dr. James Heathers has an excellent podcast in which he’s mentioned that the only three things that really matter are your ability to write, ability to code, and expertise with different software. I completely agree with him, and so does my friend who is currently still in graduate school. And NONE of these are taught. You have to take it upon yourself to learn these skills. The only thing the school does is try to ensure you are pipetting accurately.

The ONLY reason to attend graduate school is if you are interested in performing science. That’s why I went, and when I wasn’t allowed to perform the work I wanted to I said fuck it and started an independent career.

And you should only go to graduate school if you are CAPABLE of performing science. Graduate students are not supposed to learn science; they are supposed to advance science. And unfortunately this means graduate students are not students, but rather scientists that do all the grunt work. Which would be fine if they were rewarded at some point for their work, but once they get their degree they are just tossed aside by the system with no useful skills while the people they did all the work for continue to enjoy their large salaries and job security.

And you want to send people who need money and don’t have any useful skills into this system? How do you even know that state school students would complete the PhD? This may surprise you, but a PhD doesn’t give you any special powers. Sure it may get you some job interviews, but once people realize the limits of your skill set you aren’t going to get a job, or at least not keep a job or advance in a company. At some point you have to put up or shut up.

Now you’re going to tell me that I’m racist because state students are mainly minorities and if we don’t encourage them to become scientists then how will we get scientists who are minorities?

Yep, here you are right on cue:

First of all, I’m Hispanic, so fuck you. Second of all, this is another case of you sniffing too many markers. With your logic any time we have a population enriched in minorities we should be striving to turn them into scientists. Prisons have a large minority population, why don’t we have a program to turn them into scientists?

If a student was going to become a successful scientist they wouldn’t be attending a state school, especially if they are a minority student. There are a lot of grants for talented minority students, and in fact I had several full scholarship offers just because I was a minority with high SAT scores.

Most people have no chance of becoming a scientist, whether or not they are a minority. And that is okay, because being a scientist is really hard. I had a deep desire to learn and push the limits of my knowledge and abilities from an early age, and basically was working full time on my studies as a 7th grader. In high school I gave up all TV and didn’t spend any time with friends outside of school. In college I spent my weekends and holidays in lab and never attended a single party, preferring to make progress on my stacks of textbooks.

You can’t just sleepwalk through high school, attend some joke of a university, and then decide you should become a scientist because hey, why not? We don’t need minorities, we need scientists. And if you want there to be more minorities in science then you are going to have to reach them way before the stage of state school.

So this brings us back to the original tweet. If state school students shouldn’t do a PhD, or in fact shouldn’t even be going to the Ponzi scheme that is college in the first place, then what should they be doing? Well, there’s a need for trade workers. And now you’re going to imply I’m racist for wanting minorities to be electricians instead of scientists. No, I think students who go to state schools would be better off if they learned an actual skill. It’s not my fault a lot of state school students happen to be minorities.

And if trade schools were as successful at brainwashing the public as academia and we had rows of mothers crying at these graduations you would be tweeting about how minorities should become trade workers. So know your role and shut the fuck up.

And who are you to even be giving advice? As a professor you have an incentive to have more and more people go to college and pay your salary. In fact, I see you are currently taking master’s students into your lab. You mean I can pay you to work for you? Where do I sign up? No really, SIGN ME THE FUCK UP!

BONUS TRACK, BONUS TRACK

Well, at least you acknowledged how useless your school is.

Hmm, retweeting a criticism of an article by the Executive Director of Future of Research. Not a good look. What does that make you? The Past of Research? More like the Never Was of Research.

Jeez, you really need to stop sniffing those markers. Admittedly my opinion of the average student at UC Berkeley is not very high, and I obviously don’t know how many lab courses your students are required to take, but the students I considered peers would work dozens of hours per week in world-renowned labs. I myself performed postdoctoral level work as an undergrad and solved multiple crystal structures. Since your school doesn’t have a PhD program I’m pretty sure you don’t have a bunch of HHMI labs for students to work in, so yeah…

Next thing you’re going to tell me is that your students actually have higher SAT scores than Berkeley students, but because they are minorities their scores look lower.

I want to fight you. Like in a cage, with a referee. But no pads.

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