2.20.13.news.leadingvoiceslecture

Jeff Selingo’s new book, College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students (New Harvest, 2013), finds the editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education articulating the challenges to contemporary higher education. He also explores possible new directions for a future in which learning may well be unbundled from many of its traditional structures.

I interviewed Selingo and published a short version of our conversation at the Huffington Post under the title “When the Jobs of Tomorrow Don’t Exist Today: Jeff Selingo on College, Liberal Arts, and the Possible Future.” Here, I let the conversation expand to its full flowering, and then move at its close to issues of contemporary publishing.

At first I thought you were having a bad day.

Maybe it was your day off, and you were called into work, forced to cancel a much-anticipated afternoon of juggling practice on the mall.

These things happen.  Everyone is entitled to grumpiness from time to time.

But that time became a week, then weeks, and now months.

Every time I leave the parking garage, if I see you in the little booth, I go to you.  Every time, you’ve got your earbuds stuffed in your head, and you snatch my parking ticket out of my hand like it’s $20 and I owe you $50.

“Hi,” I say, every time.  Every time, I smile.

Every time, you do not smile, and you do not look me in the face.  You do not say “Twelve dollars” or “Would you like a receipt?”

You thrust my card back at me like it’s on fire.  I suppose you’d throw it if, by this point, I wasn’t looking at you like you were made of Nazis.  Every time.

Sometimes I smile anyway and say “Thank you!  Have a nice day!” because you’re the kind of person who could use a little sunshine sodomy.

Other times, I say nothing.  I snatch my card back and drive out into freedom.  And you are there.  Stuck there.  In your little booth with your earbuds in your head.

Fine.  Sit there.  You and your laptop.  I hope you get Rickrolled.

Maybe you’re a DJ.  Maybe you’re mixing up some fresh jamz.  Maybe you’re going to a leggings and finger-mustache party later to impress some girl with dirty hair and aviator glasses with your ironic remix of Ace of Base’s iconic 1993 classic, “The Sign.”

Maybe you and your friends will drink pabst into the wee hours of the morning, then retire to your respective dirty, matress-pad-less mattresses to dry-hump in time with the skinny-jeans stylings of pre-sellout KOL.

Or maybe you are a disaffected metal head and the only salve for the Tantalic torture part-time employment visits upon your darkening soul is to block out unsuspecting 9-5ers with an aural assault of indecipherable, melodramatic lyrics set to music so appalling, Satan himself would not approve it as a recruitment tool.

Maybe you should stop being such a jerk.

I just got off of work, you know.

When you’ve just gotten off of work, do you want some normal giving you dirty looks as you try to drag-foot your way back to your stinky apartment?  I think not.

So why don’t you just knock it off.

One of these days, I’m going to snap.

I’m going to drive up to your little window and just sit there until you say something.  I won’t roll my window down or anything.  I’ll just sit there with earbuds in my ears, staring at my iPhone.

Or maybe I will roll my window down.  Maybe I’ll pretend to hand you my card and snatch it back.

“Wait…wait….wait for it….” I’ll say.

Or maybe I’ll just pay like normal.  Then when I’ve got my card back, I’ll just sit there, staring at you.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thankyouthankyouthankyouHaveanicedayTHANKS

I’ll just keep saying it.  The little gate will be up and there will be people behind me, honking, and I will just sit there shouting pleasantries at you.

Is this some kind of revolution?  Is this some kind of inter-generational punishment for capitalism and global warming?  Do you labor under the impression that I am “the man?”

You should know this is the shittiest rebellion against the mainstream bourgeoisie I have ever seen in my life.  You’re wearing a fucking Rolex, for Christ’s sake.  That Mac costs almost $3,000.

So because I loathe you, because you are now my mortal enemy, I’m going to tell you how it is.  How it’s going to be for you and your fresh jamz and disaffect.  You and this attitude of yours.  Consider it a prediction.  Consider it a curse.

After you’re finished with your fixie bikes, unshowered girls, drunken sexual experimentation, and drug-fueled ironic dance parties (and you will finish with them, or die or go to jail), you are going to graduate with a middling, unexceptional degree and marry a nice, average girl and have nice, average babies to whom you will give weird, sadistic names in a vain and selfish attempt to retain some reminder of the subversive individual you think you remember you once were–a person who is slipping away from you strand by strand faster than you can say “Walmart’s got a deal on Crocs.”

A person who–you will slowly come to realize–was never real and simply the delusion of a spoiled upbringing mixed with traumatic exposure to political activism and set to simmer  on the medium heat of institutionalized higher education, a boredom & snot culture of self-indulgent esoterica, and, of course, white, middle-class guilt.

You will be forced to spend 45 minutes commuting to–and then from–a mediocre job every day.  Then, every day, you will pull out of a parking ramp in your family-friendly hovercraft at 4:30 in the afternoon, bracing to face the reeking stalemate of rush hour traffic, and find yourself face to face with some apathetic twit who believes himself too important to spare you a friendly “Hello.”

Every.  Single. Day.

That is what will become of you.


Don’t ask me how I know.


Have a nice day.