Editor's Letter: Is College Worth It?

Photo by Erika Ludwig, hair and makeup by Margo Gordon

During the time spent creating this month’s Education Issue, I also visited my closest college friends and made plans to attend my upcoming high school reunion. The confluence of these events led to several bouts of reflection: What, exactly, did I take away from those formative school years?

Access to education is a privilege I have benefited from immensely, even if much of the specific knowledge I acquired has been lost to the ages. How did I ever pass a geology class when, today, I couldn’t tell a schist from a gneiss? What confluence of events incited the Franco-Prussian war? How, exactly, does one calculate a derivative again? Sometimes I’m surprised to find bits of information resurface from deep in my memory, as when the skills I picked up in an electronics class—which have completely atrophied in my current job—recently helped me repair a jammed car trunk latch.

With years of distance between me and my school days, some of my strongest memories of that period are less intellectual than emotional: the humiliation of being teased for a perm gone wrong (“What’d ya do, stick your finger in a socket?”); an encouraging remark scrawled in the margin of a blue book essay on Death of a Salesman. The sum of all my school experiences is impossible to quantify. What’s most clear today is how much I cherish the friendships I developed through the process of shared learning (and the requisite study breaks, of course).

One “friend” I recently reconnected with was the subject of this month’s First Person, Adam Turman, who was honored with this year’s Minnesota State Fair poster commission. I use quotes around the term because I can only claim it loosely: I haven’t actually seen the guy in years, and back when we were both on staff of our high school’s “alternative” newspaper, Tangents, he was an ultra-cool senior who generously humored me and the other plebeian sophomores who revered him. (Back then, Turman was a long-haired skateboarder who drove a car with a gear shift grip made out of a pool ball.) How thrilling to see the illustrator of a scrappy student rag become one of the Twin Cities’ most recognized commercial artists, and to watch so many of my other schoolmates grow into equally remarkable adults.