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The social skills provided by a college education

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Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 12:00 am

Is a college education worthwhile? Most people seem to think so. Certainly, it acts as a union card for many jobs that otherwise would be unattainable.

But what about the personal skills one develops from a formal education? Here are five examples to contrast and compare:

Communication: Before I became a college graduate, my verbiage was more simplistic.

Let's say that I wanted to express anger at someone. In the old days, I would simply remark, "You tick me off" (or substitute a product of micturition for the word "tick").

Today, I might respond with something like this: "Your uncouth and barbaric behavior resembles a narcissistic Neanderthal, who has not experienced the essence of civilized cultural conditioning."

Dinner: Until my university enlightenment, I would order dinner in the following manner: "Gimme a burger with fries, and double the tomato. That's 'to go.' No drink. I'll wash it down with a cheap beer that I have stashed in my ride."

Now, the conversation might go quite differently:

"Pardon me, my good man." (Said much better, with a contrived British accent.) "You can fulfill my consumptive desires by beginning with the soup d'jour, followed by an ensalada mixa. For an entrée, steak tartare smothered in a Milanese-style tomato sauce would be desirable. Please compliment that with potato au gratin. Also include a Lafite-Rothschild, vintage 1982."

Transportation: Back in the day, my vehicle would have been an older Ford pickup, preferably showing a few dents, faded paint and a missing hubcap. Two/35 air conditioning (two windows down at 35 mph) would have been just fine.

But now, I have a more sophisticated view of the automobile.

American cars are not for those with academic degrees. A common Japanese sedan is tolerable, but the Prius is definitely superior. It is a highly prized environmentally conscious statement.

Still, the most preferred brands for the educated elite come from Europe — especially BMW, Mercedes, Porsche or Volvo.

A "Baby on Board" sticker can be an appropriate back window display, but most family vehicles should not contain more than 1.3 children. Alumni license frames and Greek letter decals can also help maintain the image of proud intellectual accomplishment.

Entertainment: Even choices for television programs are influenced by one's alma mater.

Before I studied Chaucer, quantum physics and upper-division philosophy, "Reba," "Jerry Springer" and network sitcoms were just fine.

Now, cable is only good for public television, the History Channel or C-SPAN. Be that as it may, a Tolstoy novel or a Neil Degrasse Tyson video is still a far better use of one's leisure time.

Politics: When it comes to economic and social issues, the Democratic Party is the only one worth considering. There are simply no comparisons.

There's just one problem with my highly advanced and refined educated tastes: Since I've been trained on how to act among the academic elite, I simply cannot afford to do so. Four college degrees have cost me thousands that can never be repaid. This means I am unable to live and work where my peers flourish.

It's a painful situation with the ironic flavor of a Greek tragedy.

So, until my finances are in order, I am, unfortunately, condemned to speak in short sentences, dine at In-N-Out, imbibe box wine, drive a second-hand Chevy stepside (along with a tenuous Toyota), watch "Two and a Half Men" and embrace Republican values.

But it's all acceptable to me. You see, I never thought that any of this snobby academic stuff made much sense in an unpretentious, small town anyway.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and satirist.

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