Opinion | Columns

Educational oversight: zombies

Watching the entire second season of “The Walking Dead” this Friday convinced me of a number of things: First, that I need to be cremated. To paraphrase a friend, cremation ensures that no one forgets your body (or resurrects it for profane ends). Second, Netflix Instant Watch will be responsible for my failure to graduate. And last, during the zombie apocalypse, Columbia will not stand a chance.

It’s not that Columbians are not resourceful, cunning, and athletic (thank self-paced running and vinyasa yoga). It’s that the skills needed in a man-eat-man world are no longer taught in schools, but at home, in Scouts, and in “The Hunger Games.” From personal experience, I can say that Columbians by-and-large have not learned them. Look at the person to your left. Now look at the person to your right. Can you honestly tell me that you feel safe with her or him guarding your back? Looking around at my five suitemates, I do not feel reassured. We are sorely lacking in any sort of survival competence.

I have little confidence that my friends here will not all be eaten or die of starvation within the first two weeks after the loss of Trader Joe’s. How many Columbians do you know who have been hunting? I can’t name any. It is important to note that this does not hold true for all Americans: 38 million participate in the sport every year, according to the National Hunting and Fishing Day website (another fascinating factoid from this page: “Teenage girls are the fasting growing market in sport shooting.” Are Taylor Swift and the Teenage Girls Twitter responsible?!). Is it that we are all pampered elitists who are filled with disdain at the thought of catching our own food or fixing our own car? In a word: yes.

Do the “eight to 10 more years of experience in life” (according to their admissions site) that GS students offer include scavenging for food in a post-apocalyptic American wasteland and performing impromptu amputations without the use of modern medical technology? Probably not. The denizens of Mudd certainly won’t put up much of a fight (though I remain unconvinced that some of the people I see in there aren’t zombies already). You can use a Bloomberg terminal, but will that be useful when Goldman Sachs is overrun by the undead hordes and capitalism collapses? Surely your philosophy degree didn’t teach you how to reason with the undead.

We learn a lot at Columbia, but there’s a “real world” element to education that few of us here have attained. I can’t even change a tire without Siri anymore. There is a marked disconnect between the elite class and “the rest”—one that differentiates us not only by what jobs we have, but by how we experience the world around us. The experience of the “elite education” is such that it isolates us from the “survival skill” set. We are uniquely tooled to the “management consulting” economy, thinking the “big ideas” and leaving the specifics up to the little people. We are programmed, as the ruling class, to tell people what to do.

I will be the first to defend the liberal arts curriculum—I have done so a number of times in previous columns. However, it is important to reflect upon how removed we are from the day-to-day business of survival, to remember that the opportunity to intern at Accenture is only made possible because someone out there knows the best soil to plant tomatoes and how to feed Angus cows. Liberal arts could not exist without the technical arts, and liberal arts majors are going to feed the zombies.

There is no Core class that teaches us how to build a fire or find the zombie vaccine—the realm of abstract thought is viewed as an end unto itself. While I would not venture so far as to claim that the liberal arts approach contributes to class division, I will argue that there is something to be said for learning to do a couple of things the old-fashioned way. When the zombie horde arrives, it’s not going to be Columbia students who rebuild civilization from the ashes. Those of you who have read this far will see that I am a sociology and Portuguese studies major. Full disclosure: I’m from Texas. I give myself a fighting chance. Or I will just turn into a Portuguese-speaking zombie, which, all told, is decidedly more interesting than your run-of-the-mill reanimated corpse.

Andrew Godinich is a Columbia College senior majoring in sociology and Portuguese studies. He is treasurer of Students for Educational Reform. Too Be Frank runs alternate Mondays.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


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