The Real Reason You Didn’t Learn Jack Sh*t In CollegeFiled Under Personal Improvement, Thought Stuff
I have been going through a lot of self reflection as of late, and as you can imagine there are a number of things that haunt my current psyche.
One of these such things is coming to the realization of just how special I thought I was as a college graduate. After all, I had shed the skin of the cocky teenager and had a true grasp of who I was and what I was capable of. I had degrees. I worked at Microsoft. Martin Fowler look out – there’s a new guy in town…
Although I can say (with little ego) that I did have a lot going for me, and I had accomplished a lot - I knew little to nothing about the real world.
You see, college never allowed me to learn through failure. As Alan Watts below puts it, I was placed in this “nursery society” where I was allowed to believe that real life was about pretending, having fun, and no matter what things will be alright.
Translating that into software development, I never had to write programs that lasted more than the next weekly project. As a result, my solutions were short sited, problematic, and all-round crap. But I didn’t need to care, as long as the teacher did not find that one little bug I swept under the rug or care about code maintainability or the fact that there were no tests – after all, it’s always a sunny day in Disneyland.
In a sense, college wired my habits to approach solutions wrong. I went to college to grow into an adult, and came out an over confident child.
Recent graduates and veteran developers alike take heed – we all have a lot to learn about our profession and even more about ourselves. Never allow your confidence to block your ability to learn from the mistakes of yourself and others. After all, we all graduated from the University of Mickey.
For the true significance of Disneyland is that it reflects our notions of children – what they are, what is good for them, and what will please them. Children are a special class of human beings which came into existence with the industrial revolution, at which time we began to invent a closed world for them, a nursery society, wherein their participation in adult life could be delayed increasingly – to keep them off the labor market. Children are, in fact, small adults who want to take part in the adult world as quickly as possible, and to learn by doing. But in the closed nursery society they are supposed to learn by pretending, for which insult to their feelings and intelligence they are propitiated with toys and hypnotized with baby talk. They are thus beguiled into the fantasy of that happy, carefree childhood with its long sunny days through which one may go on “playing” – in the peculiar sense of not working – for always and always. – Alan Watts, Does It Matter?: Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality