Louis Menand’s Three Theories

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2 March 2016

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More people than ever before are attending college due to the endless opportunities that it provides. Louis Menand, a college professor and the author of “Live and Learn: Why We Have College,” explains the meaning of college through three theories that have been developed. Theory 1 supports the idea of the sorting-out process that separates the highly intelligent from the less intelligent. Menand’s second theory explains that college provides opportunities for developmental growth, personal growth, and teaches individuals about the world around us. These are valuable lessons that will not be learned anywhere else. Theory three supports the idea of people attending college to specialize in a specific vocation. I am a firm believer in Menand’s second theory. I believe that college should enlighten students in various ways to make for well-rounded members of society, that college leads individuals to the path of self discovery, and everyone should have an opportunity to attend college. While it is true that some college students would rather specialize in certain criteria that only relates to their career path, I believe that college should educate and enlighten students in various ways to make for well-rounded intellectuals.

Menand’s second theory is a democratic perspective, which gives students the opportunity to be exposed to numerous topics, which will broaden one’s knowledge. Attaining basic information will stifle student’s developmental and personal growth. College provides students with a broader experience compared to vocational or trade schools. Even though taking a Humanities class may seem like a complete waste of time, I can prove that it has its advantages. Taking these classes will provide a greater understanding of society and how we fit in it. It will also teach students how to think critically, and allows one to explore opportunities before settling in a field that may not be suitable. Expanding the mind and learning more than the basics will shape students into intelligent beings, as well as making room for personal growth. Through my experience, college continues to give me the opportunity to grow and has shaped me to become independent –minded. I soon came to realize what I am capable of achieving, and have also been able to make improvements. For instance, when I first started attending college I realized how different the teaching methods were compared to that of high school. Since the work load was more intensive, I had to learn how to manage my time according to my own capabilities.

I learned how to prioritize, and managed to balance my academics, part-time job, and social life successfully. This transition shaped me to become a well-rounded, independent intellectual. Being a strong supporter of Theory 2, I am a firm believer that college allows for an individual to explore endlessly and also helps one find their path to self discovery. Attending an Ivy League University puts limitations on the freedom of finding the path to self discovery. It does not allow a student the freedom to explore a wide variety of opportunities while simultaneously limiting the freedom of personal growth. Some students that attend these schools are anxiety ridden due to the pressure of earning high grades and graduating at the top of their class. Being a teacher and through observation, I have come to the conclusion that those that take most from their experience and read in-between the lines are those that truly succeed. A college degree ultimately is not the end product of being an accomplished individual. A college degree is a stepping stone into the harsh reality of our society today. According to Theory 1, “it doesn’t matter which courses students take, or even what is taught in them, as long as they’re rigorous enough for the sorting mechanism to do its work” (Menand ). The filtering process which sorts the more intelligent from the less intelligent does have certain short-term advantages, but what long-term advantages does this have? It would be beneficial to be intelligent and obtain life skills that will help further a future career.

If the materials that are being taught are not absorbed, then it is not worth investing endless amounts of time and money just to earn that A and walk away with a degree that ultimately does not mean anything. It is important to take the most from the experience that college provides. I have become a successful teacher due to the opportunities that I have had that led me to self discovery. Theory 2 provides the opportunity for anyone to receive an education. Giving everyone a shot at success and the chance to go to school to earn a college degree opens the door for endless opportunities as well as better options in life. Our economy has made a huge transition over time from being a manufacturing economy to an economy based on knowledge and skill. If knowledge and skill is not acquired than the chance at becoming successful and living comfortable is close to impossible. Having the opportunity to go to college
opens the door for new and better ideas, it allows for questions to be asked and answers to be found, and it also provides developmental and personal growth.

I agree when Menand says, “It’s a way of producing a society of like-minded grownups.” It is important for everyone to have an equal opportunity to attend college to make for a better society. College gives students endless opportunities. During this time, students are able to grow and develop academically and individually. It also provides students with an experience to learn about the world around us. When students take most from their college experience, I believe this makes for a happier, accomplished, and successful individual. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to go to college, to grow into a well-rounded, intelligent member of society. These are all important fundamentals that need to be learned and what better place to learn them than in college. Who would not want to take the most from any experience?

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