From early childhood we are told that a college degree is the answer to all life’s problems. Armed with that diploma we can avoid social and economic disparity, achieve a better understanding of the world around us, learn to think rationally and critically, and achieve anything we put our minds to. While there is a lot of truth within the propagandic message of the ‘American Dream’, how useful is a degree outside the realm of everyday society?
In the recent economic crisis, a degree was hardly a saving grace. Stories ran weekly on CEO’s turned coffee baristas, showing that a piece of paper couldn’t save anyone. What about real survival? Does a college degree give you an upper hand in natural disasters, war, apocalyptic events or simply getting lost in the woods? Let’s look at whether or not a degree is truly beneficial when it comes to the most basic human need- survival.
Mother always said ‘get your degree just in case of zombie apocalypse’.
It Depends on the Degree
I have two scenarios for you. The first is set in 2023, aliens have taken over the planet and enlisted all humans as their slaves. The second is next Saturday, your car breaks down on the middle of a dark mountain road and you get lost trying to find help. While one of these may seem more likely than the other, they represent a bigger picture.
Your degree in ballet studies will help you no more as a slave to an alien race as it will building a fire to avoid freezing in the forest. If, however, your degree was in agricultural engineering, the result may be slightly different. With your knowledge on agricultural machinery design you may prove useful to the aliens and get a promotion from slave duties. In the forest, all those classes on land profiling could help you find your way to the nearest town for a tow truck.
The type of degree that will help you survive in an emergency will probably vary greatly by situation, but check out the degrees that help most in an apocalypse to get a better idea on which ones may be more prevalent.
The diploma- a weapon for whatever life throws at you.
Booksmarts vs. Streetsmarts
If we have learned anything from the characters in the Walking Dead, it’s that those with street smarts are better equipped to survive. Booksmarts certainly play a role in such scenarios, although the educated are more likely to become leaders or planners than they are swoon worthy survivors.
In a natural disaster, booksmarts won’t help you take shelter any better than someone without them. The difference is in the handling of the disaster. A degree may have given you lessons in elocution and taught you how to talk with people. This can be an indispensable skill in a disaster and people who are scared will always turn to the one with confidence for direction.
Doctor turned survivalist.
Find the Balance
The real answer is probably somewhere in the middle, a healthy balance of education and real-life skills. Michigan State recently held a Zombie Apocalypse course for their students which taught them how to survive in catastrophic events. The course was largely a silly elective, but perhaps there is something to combining what-if scenarios into the classroom.
The truth is, a degree in itself can not foster survival. The usefulness of the degree is entirely situationally dependent but the result could be one of the 4 benefits of getting your bachelor’s degree. If you are serious about surviving any disaster that comes your way, get your education but strengthen it with skills such as first-aid, wilderness survival techniques, and mental preparedness. At the end of the day, only the smart survive.
Jessica Galbraith is a writer and author of the travel blog The Fly Away American. You can connect with her on Twitter at @flyawayamerican.