I’m at the point in my college education when people start asking me what I want to do after I graduate. I always tell people, “I don’t know. I plan on going to graduate school, but after that I don’t know if I’ll go into academia, or industry, or health.” I usually also give a few sentence of explanation; I like learning, I’m using grad school as an extra five years to put off ‘the real world’, because a chemistry PhD opens up more opportunities than a bachelor’s degree, etc.
But what I don’t say, is that I judge people who don’t take their education seriously. Very seriously. I don’t mean to say that I look down on all janitors, lab technicians, farmers, secretaries, grocery store managers, and – well most Americans, because I don’t. People grow up under different circumstances and have different strengths and weaknesses, intellectual, artistic, and otherwise. What bothers me are the people I DO know, who go to college and pick “easy majors.” Those people who seemingly lack common sense and drop out of high school or college without any plans to support themselves. Those people who get C’s and D’s and F’s and then brag about it.
By now, everyone has heard or read about Texas governor and Republican presidential nominee Rick Perry’s casual remarks about his poor grades at Texas A&M*. I find it incredibly disturbing that he’s practically bragging about how he didn’t take his education seriously. As a public figure running for presidential office, he’s supposed to be a role model. As NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote over the weekend**, “Our education system is going to hell. Average SAT scores are falling, and America is slipping down the list of nations for college completion. And Rick Perry stands up with a smirk to talk to students about how you can get C’s, D’s and F’s and still run for president.”
I was raised to value my education, to respect hard work and intellect. I see that as the future, not some degenerate society with no standards for its public officials. So if it’s a choice between being perceived as an intellectual snob, and being a little too ambitious and taking my education a bit too seriously, versus wasting opportunities and counting on luck and connections and the ignorance of others to carry me through life, then I will proudly be an intellectual snob.