We live in an age where investing in yourself means going to college.
It’s about grabbing a piece of paper, posing for a picture with an awful blue background, posting that treasured picture on Facebook with a sappy ‘I did it!’ caption and anticipating the incredible amount of likes you’ll get. Shut up — you’ve been there. We’ve all been there. It’s a certain rational, inherent pride interlaced with ‘I did what they told me to do. I went to college, I was hungover for half of it, but I met the societal demand of getting a degree! Now where’s my graduation present?’ (However, I do prefer the question: where’s my job?)
In saying that, are colleges and universities all that they’re cracked up to be? Is it really the step that will catapult the youth of Ireland into a prospective, financially comfortable future? No. It’s not. Your degree has actually become meaningless with the number of people entering third-level — education is no longer a valued, sought-after achievement for the mind. It’s a social demand. A demand that won’t necessarily give you the lemons to make the best lemonade. The realistic sting of that proverb is in fact more citrusy than lemons itself. Because the reality is there is no lemonade — not any time soon.
According to the CSO, third level student numbers increased by 105 per cent between 1990/91 and 2003/04. Ireland has long been telling itself that we have a highly educated workforce. That is indeed true — but what happens when the quality of education is outmatched by the quantity of education?
As society is aggressively demanding young people to go to college, a certain inferiority is placed on those who choose not to go. People who choose the paths of apprenticeships, fashion, entrepreneurship, and construction are now being forced to disregard these trades and creative crafts. These non-academic choices have now been made academic by colleges and universities offering courses which take these practical talents and attempt to theorise them.
College courses in America include Harry Potter Literature in Ohio State University and Underwater Basket Weaving in Reed College, which is respectively a play on the absurdity of obscure college courses anyway. Princeton once offered ‘Getting Dressed’ — a course offered exclusively to freshmen. Being able to dress oneself, an activity we learned when we were three years old, was actually a college course. Mind you, the class was more than just daily sessions on how to get dressed in the morning with the light actually on (which, I must attest is difficult) — it was about using fashion as a medium to study history and the understanding of individuality. Which is interesting. But is it theoretical? Academia is separate from practical and technical applications. But nowadays? There’s definitely some blurred lines.
Fortunately, we haven’t cloned the same lucrative programmes in Ireland — but we have, however, contributed to this concept of adding what is not academic to academia, paradoxically, changing the simple definition of academia itself.
Ireland’s top courses that have added theory to practicality include: Fashion Design in Griffith College; Aircraft Maintenance and Operations in UL; Culinary Arts in D.I.T; and Popular Music: Drums, in CIT. Griffith College’s course content for Fashion Design says, ‘nurturing your design and creativity is [their] main objective for this course.’ Here is a clear example of how third-level institutions are changing the level of academia — ‘nurturing your design and creativity’ — ‘nurturing’ — what are they doing, feeding the models? Who feeds models?
When did the capitalisation of theorising design and creativity become so popular? When society subconsciously brainwashed us with Uncle Sam posters demanding us to head to third level. And when institutions capitalised on this, seeing a flush of currency signs in front of them. Curbing college courses to suit the non-academic evidently seems to be profitable but, in essence, it destructs the creative class. This isn’t to say the creative class shouldn’t be made academic, but it should be standalone for its own ingenuity, surely?
Retaliating against this attack on the creative class, the Millennium Generation have eagerly fought back. A new tech-savvy, creative-minded breed is now dominating the urban scene; The Yuccie — an acronym for ‘young urban creatives’. It is the Yuccies who are running their own businesses spearheaded by rampant social media usage, slamming monopolisation and greed and trading it in for creative ideas. Ideas are what bolster them to establish their identities and businesses — not an obscure college course that objectifies craft and creativity by teaching something that may be generally regarded as inherent.
One of these Young Urban Creatives, Michelle Martin, studied ‘Visual Merchandising, Styling and Display’ in DIT.
Michelle, who has established her own personal styling service in one of the high street’s most successful stores, says, ‘There is only so much you can be taught about what colours complement each other, what shapes attract the eye and how to manipulate the eye path. As much as they teach you about the “rules” — they don’t really exist. No matter how much you’re taught in college, it will not prepare you for the real thing.’ When a graduate who has turned her creativity into a successful business doesn’t comprehend the theorising of creative arts into academia, it begs the question: are there fields that third-level institutions can’t successfully manipulate into academics?
If it’s anything that defies the general monopolisation of things, it’s the Yuccie. The person who values their creativity before anything else. Evidently valuing it a lot more than colleges do.
But no matter how strong the Yuccie may become, it seems like they’re up against the untouchable regime of third-level education, and the irrevocable societal demand of grabbing that scroll, and posing for that photograph.