Who Needs College? Laurent.

From Rats in the Ivory Tower, Episode 8

Lots of well-intentioned people will contend that college isn’t necessary. I certainly agree. It isn’t always necessary. I mean many successful people have skipped over that experience and devoted those years to efforts that helped make their fortunes, their celebrity, or whatever.

Neither does college guarantee anything, except the chance to open one’s mind to ideas, skills in such pursuits as reasoning, and possibilities.

But the question remains, who should and who shouldn’t attend college?

Laurent was such a bright kid he got pushed a grade ahead during elementary school. With the older students, he felt small and rather lost, so he began to withdraw and soon lost interest in school.

Forward some years, to high school graduation. He didn’t see any reason to go to college, and while considering other options, may have sampled a drug or two.

A relative helped him join the maritime union. He found employment as merchant seaman and while on a ship in the Indian Ocean may have again sampled a drug or two, which helped him feel certain that soon aliens would arrive and take him to a higher plane where he would be taught the secret of art.

A couple years later, he gave up on the alien abduction and enrolled in community college as an art major. Once he completed the general ed and lower division art classes, he transferred to Humboldt State University in Eureka, a few miles from Oregon. He did quite well as an art major, but during his final year, drawing in the anatomical laboratory while pre-med students studied sparked an interest in the human body, which led to his new goal, to become a medical doctor.

The next school year, he landed at another community college, in Columbia, CA, not far from Yosemite, where he spent several semesters taking the basic science he would need to apply for med school. Then, back home in San Diego, he finished the pre-med science prerequisites at SDSU.

Now came the chore of applying to med schools, and though he nearly aced the M-Cat exams and his grades all through college were mostly A’s, he got plenty of rejections, no doubt in part because the essays he submitted were more like prose poems. He did get on waiting lists in-spite of being dissuaded by counselors due to his age. He also found the schools were hardly generous and, having little family support, the price tag spooked him.

For a couple years, he made his way by doing odd jobs and light construction, including the remodel of a small art gallery. The owner appreciated his dedication to craft and asked him to restore a couple damaged statues, and when that work proved his skill, the owner suggested he might want to inquire about an internship at the San Diego Museum of Art, which housed a restoration atelier [workshop].

He interned at that museum for a year or two, meanwhile researched graduate programs in art restoration, and learned that only a few of them existed. One of the best was at the University of Delaware. He applied, and not only got admitted due to all the education in both art and science but also found all the students received a full scholarship and a small stipend.

After completing the MS degree in art conservatorship, including a year as an apprentice at the San Francisco Art Museum, he worked two years in an important private lab in Texas and then three at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he even met Sigourney Weaver while she was researching her role as an art conservator in Ghostbusters II.

All that experience led him to one of Europe’s great museums, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where he still lives happily with his wife Eneida, another conservator. She came from Rio de Janeiro via MASP [Sao Paulo Art Museum]. They travel often, all around Europe and elsewhere, frequently on the tab of a museum in exchange for chaperoning great and valuable works on inter-museum loan.

I decided not to  send Laurent this issue of Rats to check for accuracy, supposing that If I did, he would tell me to add this, delete that, and change another detail. Or he would insist on revising it himself and it would become a prose poem.

Well I relented and did send it and he did edit, which is why I was required to look up the word atelier and the acronym MASP.

Now, dear reader, in case I haven’t made the point of this story perfectly clear, here it is: you never can tell where life, or higher education, will take you.

On the other hand, unless you truly enjoy learning and you either have benefactors or you don’t mind living on peanut butter, bananas, spinach, and ramen, you might try to choose a straighter path than Laurent did.

Next issue, I may tell the education story of Steve, whose second grade teacher called him stupid. Having spent a dozen years as a college advisor, I could spin a few hundred of these inspirational stories and they are not all about artists.

Or I may move on to other sub topics in the labyrinth we call higher education.

So, if you are not already a subscriber, here is your chance. And once subscribed, you can go to the archives for the episodes you have missed.

If you have any issues regarding higher education you would like me to address, I’m at ken@kenkuhlken.net.

Please note that Rats is sponsored by Perelandra College, an online destination for those who want to become really smart.

And if you are a reader of novels that include history, fascinating characters, and suspense, stop by my website for a free book or two.


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