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Reach out, be offended

April 13, 2018

It is offensive to challenge yourself with ideas. And even more so, it is offensive to be challenged by ideas. If that didn’t count as offensive, what would?

Well, violence, for starters. But as far as student life goes today, universities are not doing much of the challenging anymore, trading a battleground of ideas for a chamber of groupthink.

I pondered going to university, borrowing tens of thousands from our noble government for a liberal arts education or delving into the crevices of the human mind, but I was scared off.

Not only was I hearing about weakening education but there are no jobs for university grads. There’s no reason to rack up all of that debt for no payoff, they cried. It’s not worth the strain, either, not to mention all the other topics of the day like mental health, social media taking our joy (and our data) and ideologues for instructors. A university doesn’t have a lot going for it other than a name and tradition.

What is the value of the average university education I skipped out on? It’s dollar signs in the young engineer’s eyes – anxiety in everyone else’s.

There’s no longer trusty oil and gas to help the hurtin’ Albertan. Our federal government will hardly support a pipeline that’s already passed the House of Commons.

There’s an even tougher hierarchy to climb in the cutthroat retail game if you sit out of the classroom gibberish. At a $15 an hour minimum wage, try accelerating up the company ladder and seeing where upper management leads. A dollar or two more?

So I thought hard about university and its value when faced with the future. NAIT provided an excellent alternative from the khaki pants, round-rimmed frames and Herschel-supporting students of U of A or MacEwan. Although my choice of trade (Radio and Television) coupled with my extra work for a newspaper, would’ve best prepared me for a career beginning in 1978, not 2018.

I have yet in my short time away from home to help a friend install a satellite dish or lend them a loonie to snag the latest Sun or Journal. If radios weren’t installed in cars, we would no longer have the thrill of hearing our texts read live on air on Now radio.

As we wait drearily for traffic on the Henday to relax, at least we can share that hilarious time a ex-girlfriend’s mom burnt ravioli during a family dinner. But for how much longer?

Media is at a crossroads. It is entering its most volatile and unpredictable future. Not so high a horse I’m riding over those measly psychology majors two years later am I? Is that the future teacher I hear laughing at me with their paid benefits, months of leisure time and union security or am I only imagining it?

What could be more offensive than making the wrong life-choice? In that case, the post-secondaries have done the best they could.

Maybe captioning and court reporting was the best program after all.

The world’s a bit nuts these days. In the age of major deficits and “gendered budgets” it’s difficult to fathom what the province or country will look like in five to 10 years in nearly every way. Give credit where credit’s due: because it will be due for decades whether it’s our own Mastercards or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s.

If you’re about to exit the halls of NAIT to enter this treacherous and uncertain world, you might need some reassurance, a game plan, if you will.

Here’s what I’ve devised. The method to sanity (or insanity, just as easily) is to seek every opportunity to offend yourself. Offend yourself with the authors whose work is opposite to your views. Offend yourself willingly with the good and bad. Challenge what you think and don’t waste your time stewing and taking offence about things that don’t matter to you: make it about the most meaningful things. Make it work for you, against you and with you.

We are privy to the most information human beings have ever had and, like every other time in history, we’ve known the least amount to get by.

Enough moralizing. “Offend in every way,” as the White Stripes sang. At least then, maybe – hopefully – you’ll learn something.

– Michael Menzies, Senior Editor