Cleaning The Clocks: The Problem With College

Boston College is not the same as last year. The newest Commonwealth Ave. dorm is finally shaping up, the fourth spike of Burns was  put back into place, and Stuart Hall is looking better than ever. For some reason, putting a printer on Lower Campus did not make the list, and we are still anxiously waiting. But the most significant change was one that went almost unnoticed: clocks appeared in the classrooms. I welcomed the change. At first, it reminded me of high school. It was, all things considered, comforting.

Three weeks in the school year, I have mixed feelings about the clocks. I’ve noticed that in every class, I look at the clock six or seven times. I want to know what the time is. I want to know how long I’ve been sitting in class. I want to know how long I have left before I can go into my other class and look at the clock there. And in a given minute, I can look around and catch one of my classmates doing the exact same thing.

Now I wonder why exactly we do that. Clearly, we want to know how much time is left, but why are we so anxious to leave? We invest so much in college, not only in money but also in time. Shouldn’t we try to maximize our learning experience, considering we give up so much? But instead, we look at the clock.

It doesn’t stop there. Many of us are ecstatic to have our classes cancelled. And for the non-freshmen reading this, let me take you back to this past January. Juno took the campus by literal storm, classes were cancelled across the board, and everyone was enthralled. It is not hard to see how ridiculous the situation may seem. But I have a hard time accepting that, without fault, we are all simply behaving irrationally. What if what we’re doing is the rational thing after all? Economics teaches us that education is an investment. We learn to increase our technical skills and knowledge as employers and employees, which makes us more likely to be hired. It makes sense, looking at the employment rates of college graduates compared to those with only a high school diploma. But it’s hard to reconcile that with all of our “irrational” behaviors. Shouldn’t we hate to have class cancelled, missing the opportunity to increase our human capital without a refund?

Honestly, I don’t buy it. Sure, we learn things in college that will be essential for our life after we graduate. Accountants need to learn accounting, mathematicians need to learn mathematics, finance majors need to learn about finance. But if it really was only about learning, would we have to go to college at all? These days especially, there are so many free resources available to us to do exactly that: learning. To borrow from Good Will Hunting, aren’t we just “dropping 150 grand on a f—king education we coulda’ gotten for $1.50 in late charges at the public library?”

So why has college attendance risen by 46 percent since 1990? I know for a fact that this column won’t make anyone drop out, especially not me. Clearly there’s a huge benefit to attending college. If it isn’t to learn, then what is it for?

It seems to me that college has turned into a mere screening process for employers. College is a way to weed out who is naturally a good worker, and who isn’t. The job market is becoming increasingly competitive. Knowing which college, if any, the applicant attended, helps them reduce the fat stack of resumes. Because by going to college, you prove you have the discipline to go through the process. You prove you have the brains to do it. That’s what it’s all about: proving yourself. You’re proving that you’re good enough. Of course we learn a lot in college, but that’s not why we go. We go to have our capabilities affirmed. We go because it has become the standard.

That explains why we are so happy to have our classes cancelled. Employers will never know that there was no class that day. It won’t change a thing. You’ll still have proven yourself to the same degree as if class wasn’t cancelled. If you look at cancelled class as a loss of your money, then sure, you’re an irrational being. But if you look at it as one less task to prove yourself, happiness is only implicit.

Is there anything we can do about this situation? How about this: Take down the f—king clocks. Put a printer in Lower.

Featured Image by Francisco Ruela / Heights Graphics