This is not a complaint or a poor me party. It’s an honest observation on higher education.

Last weekend while cleaning up a few things I found an old box from my university days and discovered that I kept some of the essays I had written some twenty five years ago. The marks were all over the place, if you can care to know, and it is of no surprise that I was an average student.

I was never on the Honour Roll growing up and you won’t find my name on any Dean’s list either. As a matter of fact I had skipped every single graduating ceremony. I also burned my uniform on the last day of High School, vowing to never enter any educational institution again. I guess God has a sense of humour because I have been a teacher for some twenty years, and have attended a graduating ceremony every year.

But school was tough for me.

My dad put me back a year when we first got to Canada in 1985, because he knew how important it was for me to speak English. He often joked how privileged he felt being illiterate in two languages.

I took my seat in a High School classroom only two years later, and I was in College four years after that. I enrolled in University some eight years after getting to Canada.

Obviously I had to cut some corners.

Today I still misspell words, and I struggle with punctuation and grammar. I have problems with phonics. Certain sounds just don’t make sense to me. English is a tough language to learn. It has to be memorized.

But this is not about me. It’s a little reflection on University.

I think University almost broke me.

I hated going there.

I like the brochure. I didn’t like the experience.

I wanted to be able to do something with my life, and it was something I had to get through.

I never understood how a monotone voice speaking to three hundred students for fifty minutes serves any value to anyone. I never understood how breaking up the large group of students into tutorials and being evaluated by your peers, who are really just a little further along the path, made any sense either.

There are lots of things that make no sense to me.

I know why its done. University is a habitual factory.

A factory of higher learning. There is no grease and widgets to tighten, but it feels just as soulless.

University is a demanding factory.

Recently one extended their so called ‘reading week’ by seven more days because of the high suicide rates of their students. What madness!

  We don’t want to change how and why we do things, so we just throw more time on it, hoping the problem will take care of itself, or at least stay out of the news.

If I had to sum up all the ‘constructive criticisms’ that I received on my work, they all said the same thing. Here are your mistakes. Do better.

I could have read all those novels and all those philosophy volumes on my own. I could have found someone wise who would have instruct me and spent more than fifty minutes a week with me. I could have found other like minded individuals and we could have studied together, learning and growing together.

But I learned. All that was in the back of my mind was that I wasn’t good enough.

I didn’t belong at the top.

My work didn’t matter. My voice didn’t count.

How can I be sure? Because those same feelings overwhelmed me when I saw all the comments and I once again began second guessing my self, and questioning the value of anything I have written or intend to write.

University almost broke me, but it didn’t.

I am not sorry that I went but I don’t wish the same on my children.

I want them to be smart. I want them to be wise. I want them to be successful.

I just don’t want them to be broken.


Cover photo generously provided by photographer Faustin Tuyamabaze via