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As a young learning and growing teenage Anarchist, is investing the time and the work worth it to go to a university?

+6 votes
With thinking a lot about how I want to live life, thinking of ways to survive with creating a new world outside of a system. Knowing no matter how my life will be right now I need money despite how much I am against it and want the complete destruction of it all. A big need to travel and to meet other Anarchists, with keeping in mind going to university could be the most affordable way to unite with  people, despite the frustration and stress forced upon every young person to decide how our lives are supposed to be now and having the business of university constantly preached to me and of the importance of the pathetic unequal education system we live with.
Is it even considerable to an anarchist to work through this system of education that supports the idea of schooling for all the wrong reasons?

would it be beneficial? All I really want to do is live a revolutionary life and it is terrible having to feel I need money or I wont survive no matter If I will be spending every day trying to end the use of money.  

If I work my ass of in school, work in an exploitative job in summers, coming from a large family where money is scarce and it would be hard but perhaps possible to send me to a university, after investing so much time and effort to get there I would just feel absolutely terrible knowing it is wrong for me and I wasted valuable time in life hoping to fight but in a wrong way when maybe I could just begin a 'revolutionary" life and still survive now.


edited to create tags
asked Aug 27, 2010 by anonymous
edited May 10, 2013 by dot

8 Answers

0 votes
 
Best answer
i know there are people who come to this site who will have different takes on this, so i hope some of them weigh in.

my take on it is that schools warp you. (so will work, of course - but the warpages are different.) you will spend time learning a particular way to think about the world. the biases will either be or become invisible to you. you won't realize how you start thinking differently (or you will be severely discouraged to learn a different/better way to think). you will be surrounded by people who see higher education as a privilege (vs being at work, where people are a more likely to be disaffected). to the extent that you work really hard to get into school, it is harder not to buy-in once you're there (we all tend to want what we're doing to be good, especially when we've invested a lot into it).
your options will be to distance yourself from others to maintain your anarchist integrity, or to try and integrate your anarchist thinking into the institution... one of which sacrifices your humanity/relationships, the other of which sacrifices your anarchy.

investing a lot in getting to school and then having it not be helpful in finding a better job would also suck, and is happening more and more these days (see After the Fall).

that said, school is a place where you are given some room, and encouraged, to think (within specific parameters), and that kind of environment is harder to find outside of school (especially depending on where you are geographically). the social placement of schools means that they're more reliable and stable than things like free skools or reading groups (which are much better than schools for anarchists to expand their intellects -- except that they generally don't last long :( ).

(i have known a single awesome anarchist professor who kept his job clear as a JOB, and who didn't get sucked into the whole rigamarole, and he just lost that position. so it's possible, just rare, and perhaps short-lived.)

tmi? ;)
answered Aug 27, 2010 by dot (50,920 points)
edited Aug 27, 2010 by dot
0 votes
i think that universities can offer a place to meet other people you might find affinity with, but you don't necessarily need to be a student to meet those people or get involved with projects that interest you. a really important thing might be just being in a place where there are more chances of meeting other anarchists - usually cities.
if your main reason for going to university would be because of the supposed advantages it gives you in trying to find a way to support yourself, i think there are other, less exorbitantly expensive options for doing that. trade schools or training programs might be something you could think about. or if there's a certain skill you're good at, like computers or mechanics or something, focusing on developing that skill could help you get a job too, and maybe give you more time to focus on things that actually matter to you.
i feel like this is a hard decision to make, but unless there's something you are truly interested in studying in school it doesn't make a lot of sense to me to spend tens of thousands of dollars and four years and a lifetime of debt to get a college degree (which in my experience has not been relevant to any of the jobs i've had to find.)
answered Aug 31, 2010 by sula (250 points)
I’m the person who posted the original question. I also posted a longer more personal detail to this question on http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/12044.
My main reason and why I am in the process of considering going is because of the ‘supposed advantages it gives you in trying to find a way to support yourself’ and because I might get the opportunity as by going to university to find a job where I get to focus on things that matter to me and if that is impossible a job where I will have time to focus on the things that matter to me.  
There is no particular skill I am really good at but I do know I enjoy working at times. I don’t know what it is like to work 6 days a week, basically every week of the year but my experience with doing small jobs usually getting paid as low as possible I’ve went through it. Even though it always bothered me how my co-workers worked minimum wage all year round and are supposed to provide for children and a family and it just supported my thoughts that capitalism and even excessive working is completely an injustice and is wrong.
This is a really hard decision to make, and most of my friends who aren’t interested in Anarchism or even political philosophy have to deal with this shit. I’m most concerned with being able to create change and despite how corny or anything how it sounds be an Activist and devote my life to not Anarchy but to the people who are suffering right now, and this planet which is suffering, and basically through Anarchism which seems to me to make the most sense for myself, my family, neighbors and for humanity.
In a couple of months I will be travelling to Canada to see my girlfriend after she leaves The Bahamas (where I live). She is at university and I am definitely going to be about checking for the radically left, at the school and in the town. Hearing opinions and such about the current education establishment and how it relates to Anarchists and our fight. On a note I never know where life will take me, and that I might end up wanting to stay together with the person I am with and that could dramatically shape and change my life yet I can’t ever ignore my beliefs and hopes for Anarchy.
 Your post was helpful because you are one person who has said a college degree hasn’t even really had a relevance to your jobs, and that I need to consider that finding a skilled job which could allow me to support myself, potentially a family and at the same time allows me the time I need to focus on the things that are extremely important to me is a potential path for my life too.
+2 votes
I am a college graduate; needed a whole 3.5 years to get my degree (I studied hard, took a couple more classes than usual to get out faster, didn't party). There were probably a total of four or five classes I took that were so good that I still remember attending them. Likewise there are maybe four or five profs I still remember fondly as excellent teachers who were able to avoid their own biases long enough to encourage me (and a few other students who took the time to become more than a body in attendance) to follow my own inclinations on particular topics. If you come at them with an inquisitive mind and a good mixture of humility and self-confidence, the best profs will open up and they might even tell you how shitty their jobs are (had one who did that on our second meeting, and he's still a well-respected authority in his field and a prolific writer of both textbooks and popular books). He seriously discouraged me from going in the direction of his field -- not because he didn't want competition, but because he saw it as an intellectual dead end!
In addition, I have to disagree with the above poster about discovering affinity with other students. I met perhaps three or four other actual anarchists (among the dilettantes who flutter around various campuses flirting with naughty ideas), none of whom I remain in contact with. My experiences in the early 80s was that the vast majority of students (even in the liberal arts departments) were career-minded drones-in-training.
There is an overall encouragement to think and study, but only within a very limited set of parameters (as dot said quite well). You have to actively seek out the right profs in the right departments, and even then there's no guarantee that they'll take a shine to you.
Don't get me wrong: I value the time I spent in college, but if you have the desire, will, and discipline to learn, you can get some great advice from others who've gone through that and emerged as intact anarchists (like some of the folks who post here) without having to go through it all yourself. But if you want to hang out with your peers in an milieu that allows you the freedom from your parents' and high school environments, then by all means GO!
answered Sep 7, 2010 by lawrence (18,030 points)
+1 vote
Work, school, all the same shit to me. The state has its tentacles all over both, and unless you come out with guns blazing, you're gonna have to kowtow or compromise one way or another. I'm not sure what you mean by a revolutionary life, though.

I'd encourage you to live your life and do what you want to do. There are educations to be had everywhere, and that includes schools, so if you're interested in that, then cool. Likewise, if you find yourself interested in a trade which requires training, then go with that. I suggest you make these decisions based on your personality, learning style, and the skills and life experiences you're after, rather than purely ideological or earning-potential considerations. The fact that you speak and write english competently, and presumably hold a first-world passport, means that you really shouldn't worry too terribly much about your earning potential.

If you're really serious about stopping the use of money, then....try to live your life with very little of it, say, a dollar a day or less. You'll have the company of billions of people on this planet who are trying to do just that, though most of them would also jump at the chance to have more of the stuff. Most of them would also jump at the chance of going to university, because, at the end of the day, the kowtowing and ass-kissing and conformity and cultural compromise are worth it to them if they can learn how to deliver a baby or build a bridge, or even just get a nice hologrammed sticker in their red or green passport.

Also, try to get away from the "anarchist" community every now and again. There are lots of people out there who are far too busy living the struggle, fighting the man, and getting by on mutual aid and spontaneous organization to be bothered with the intellectualized discourse of a materially comfortable lunatic fringe.

Personally, I'd recommend that you find a job (any that doesn't kill you or leave you suicidal will do) save every cent possible, and use the money to go to some poor-ass corner of the map and hang out there for as long as possible. Out of all of the schools I've attended, both official and informal, that one is by far the best.
answered Dec 17, 2010 by Tower of Babel (580 points)
edited Dec 17, 2010 by Tower of Babel
+1 vote
Have you considered just going to trade or technical school?    It costs a fraction as much as university, it takes half as long tops, and you're more likely to get a job where you can move around.  You won't have to deal with the stifling, asinine nature of university students.  People at a trade school are just there to get a job, and have no pretensions about getting a "well-rounded education" or any other college-type bullshit.  

Seriously, if you get some kind of skilled trade as an electrician or welder or millwright, you can pretty much find work anywhere, depending on what it is that you choose to do.  And if you take a blue-collar job, the likelihood is very high that you won't have a job that follows you home at night.  

Don't view this as a political endorsement of trade unionism, but there's also a lot to be said for trying to get an apprenticeship.  Sometimes the waiting lists are long, but you can also get bumped up by affirmative-action minded unions if you're a woman or POC, depending on the state you live in.  If you get a journeyman's card in a trade, you can pretty much go wherever work is available.  Also, if you are a member of a union with a hiring hall and you can't find work, you don't even have to pretend to look for work.  You just draw Unemployment Insurance until the hall calls you for a job.

Also, think of the practical benefits you might provide to whatever anarchist community or group you work with.  There's plenty of anarchists who can fold zines, or write long tracts about different shit, but how many can get a car running?  Or wire up a squat?  Or weld?  Or troubleshoot code?  The possibilities are endless.
answered Feb 3, 2011 by Nulla Corona (150 points)
–1 vote
I am 17 years old and can already say that I am not wasting my time with that bullshit. Like the previous answer, I agree that school does warp you. I am finishing high school because without a high school diploma these days, you're basically fucked. But after that, Im done. College will only try to put you in line and get you to march in their goose-step parade. And if you haven't noticed, the brain washing begins in elementary school, when they teach you the pledge of allegiance. They make it seem as if the other countries are the "bad guys" and the U.S is number one. So when I graduate, Im just going to continue to educate myself through the readings of various anarchist authors and do what I can to fight the system.

On the other hand, however, there are some good things about college.. like better job opportunities. But when youre an anarchist, jobs dont seem to matter much lol. But if you are an anarchist planning on going to some college, you are able to fight the system from the inside. You can get up close and personal with the ones you oppose. You should always know your enemy the best you can. You can wreak havoc right under their filthy fucking noses!

So my answer is do whatever you think is in your best interest man. If you feel the need to get a good education than go for it! No one is stopping you. Im just giving you and answer with both perspectives. Good Luck!
answered Feb 9, 2011 by AntiAmerican420 (100 points)
0 votes
I have now studied philosophy for two years in my local uni here in Finland. Here the state pays you financial aid max 470 euros (ca. 600 USD) per month if you get enough credits. There is no tuition fees. For a master's level degree the maximum period of eligibility for aid is 6 years (you get no aid for the summers) so the situation economically is somewhat different than in US.

 I would agree with lawrence that uni is not the best place to meet anarchist and even less revolutionaries (except power hungry leftists) because people in university tend to be pretty comfort-loving and career-minded (even if they don't yet know what that career will be). All the anarchist I know in uni I have met outside school or in reading groups that have been self organized and only held at school premises. Most uni students at least here are from fairly [upper] middle class backgrounds and want to keep it that way.
If I hadn't gone to university I maybe hadn't met the few anarchists I now call friends. However, uni was definitely not the place where I became friends with these people. That has happened slowly by doing things and actions with them.

The politically active in uni are pretty boring. Most are very very career-minded and want to become a prof politician in their reformist party and act that way. The "radicals" are leftist or leftist autonomists who theories everything until it has pretty much no contact point with reality.

All in all I think you can learn a lot in uni that you otherwise wouldn't have time or motivation to learn on your own. Some is really insightful but most really unpractical that's only nice to know but doesn't help your life even slightest. However, I've studied only humanities and social sciences so that's really no news. I think the best way to meet people is by traveling alone and the best way to make friends is to have something to do together regularly. Uni doesn't do neither of those.

I wouldn't go to uni for a better place in the job market. If you want a job go get one or get into trade school or something like that. I wouldn't worry about money so much. In the end of the day you usually manage to get food and a shelter someway or the other and as tower of babel said, as a first world citizen you have lot's of opportunities even if you fail a couple of times. Uni is nice if you want to study for the knowledge and maybe if you have a career you strive for. Uni can also be lots of fun and you get to have lots of good and interesting conversations with smart people who have read lots about some topics. Uni can be a good start if you want to learn how society and its parts function or have evolved, but that doesn't make you the slightest revolutionary. Doing things and taking your life into your own hands makes you and university is not a place for doing stuff. If you feel like uni would be a good place for you, go for it. If it sucks you can always try something different.
answered Feb 23, 2011 by mirare (180 points)
+1 vote
Only if you can get them to pay you, or if you never plan on paying back your loans.
answered Apr 22, 2011 by Taigarun (1,910 points)
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