Thursday, August 27, 2009


I'm starting university in a couple of days.

When I wrote nothing more than 'university is..." in the Google searchbox, the results it displayed were overwhelmingly negative. University is a waste of time, university is useless, university is bullshit, and so on.

I've been hearing this sentiment for years, spanning decades of thought and opinion. For example Bukowski spent about one year at higher education: "The only damage they did was to your mind", he wrote although that isn't verbatim. And he wrote much more in his courses than what was expected and was considered an A-grade material student, yet he dropped out. I don't see him as the be-all-end-all of literature but he does write the occasional good line of poetry. Hey, everyone loves him.
I remember my first year of university at the U of Manitoba, how my Economics professor joked that you'd only be able to get a worthwhile job if you weren't in university, and the whole class though they knew their degree would guarantee them a dream job, or as though they went through the System and knew the time/money (because they're one and the same) put into university would have the biggest payoff...Were they right to laugh?
When I worked as a dishwasher in Ottawa I clearly remember a fellow employee of mine lamenting how post-secondary education was a money-grabbing waste of time - and he was in university...
I mean the real secret to success is that (spurred on by a quote by a former American president - Coolidge?) what really matters in the world is how much guts you have...

For the arts? Universty is a waste of time for the arts, of course. Even moreso for writing. I mean I should've realized that people want youthful artists to create MUSIC- and they want people who are older to be their writers. It's futile to even try and be yourself and not conform to what everyone believes by writing. If I'm not conforming to what everyone else believes, how do I expect to have any appeal? Do I think I'll be so immersed in the 'other side' that people will actually care and try to live vicariously through me?

A writer needs experience in order to write. You can't gain experience in a classroom. Just like the best way to interpret art is to be in front of the art yourself (instead of having someone tell you what it's supposed to mean), the best way to write about life is to experience life itself rather than have a teacher tell you what you're supposed to infer from what a writer inscribes. "Go back to school, little Starling."

After all, that's what one of my professors once told me: that the author's intention is irrelevant, and only your opinion of the text counts. Barthes, anyone? "The death of the author is necessary for the reader to make sense of the text", he wrote. But when I created Disassociation, I wanted people to bring up their stereotypes (both negative and positive) of Arabic people and re-evaluate them. To realize that the Arabic person walking down the street actually might not be a terrorist and not agree with terrorist values, and could be their own individual person. And just as importantly, for the young Arabic person to understand what their belief in blind violence could lead to...Do my intentions push my novel into the 'useless trash fiction' category of writing, since they aren't supposed to have any value? And more importantly, does my lamenting of this problem onto the Internet somehow undermine my future? Did I ever have any future to begin with? Would anyone even think to themselves, "I want to broaden my perception of Arabic people and not think of them in a stereotypical fashion?"

...So with all this weight against me and my writing as I get ready to start another year of university, I really don't know if the money and effort I put into York is going to be worth it in the long run. So let's have another chastising comment tell me the opposite!


  1. I am a fellow YorkU student, and the one experiences YorkU has provided me with is the Hidden Curriculum. Though, the sociological concept has much negativity surrounding it, there are waves of light as well. For one, I have met great people at university. It may not be the school's doing, but I have a sense of gratitude for the place. And for me personally, it shields me from the workplace. As long as I keep my head in a book, I don't have to get a job. I'm not saying its right, I am just saying how I get myself through the day; with connection to others.

  2. Thanks for the comment, I just noticed it today.

    I'm not speaking out against York personally, although a lot of people have issues with how it's run. I'm not indifferent to those issues but I don't have enough knowledge of them in order to give a full opinion.

    You're right, a lot of people find that the new friends you make in university is one of the best things about it. I've met some good people and I'm definitely grateful for it, but I'm always worried about how far my Masters in English will take me in terms of the respect of education credentials.

    I wasn't aware Hidden Cirriculum was an actual phrase, so thanks for mentioning it.