American Writer, Photographer, and Website Designer. Former career Fire and EMS Lieutenant. She/Her/Lesbian.

Why Jack Kerouac Was Right About Society

Kerouac by Tom Palumbo, circa 1956, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.  [Source]

Jack Kerouac once said, “…the ones for me are…the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing…,” [link] which to most people only cemented the notion that Kerouac himself was a self-absorbed egotist, but to me he was simply stating a fact that he was more intellectually achieved than most, and preferred to surround himself with others of equal intellectual achievement.

Aside from the egotistical nature of his personality, Jack Kerouac was somebody who was able to epitomize a simple concept I have been trying to substantiate for years.  Put simply, outside the world of academia, there exists people, whom for whatever reason, pursued wisdom and knowledge through their own autodidactic means.  And yet at the same time, there exists a disturbing trend in society to shun and discredit those of us who are self-taught.

When one completes a formal education, it only proves one thing: they were able to devote the time and financial resources necessary to do so, and generally their lives are centered around non-intellectual pursuits post-graduation.  This is where the commonplace ideas and discussion is formed; when someone decides that their education is complete once they reach graduation.

An intellectually-achieved person my comparison realizes early on in life that formal (a.k.a. paid-for) education is fallible in many ways and can clearly justify this argument based on a number of obvious reasons of which most so-called ‘learning institutions’ would vehemently disagree.

A formal education forces students to simply memorize facts, figures, and concepts, then repeat the information back to the teacher during the testing phase.  Alternatively, an autodidactive approach allows one to form ones own conclusion based upon independent study as well as prior life experiences to form a much deeper understanding than a traditionally-based memorization.

The reality that colleges and universities are nothing more than money-generating diploma mills is overshadowed by the notion that a college degree will guarantee a higher salary later on in life, yet outside the corporate world, a college degree is often looked upon as a useless vanity or status symbol by an intellectually-achieved person.  While colleges and universities try to blur the line between a college graduate and an intellectual, there has always been, and always will be a major difference dividing the two.

The only thing a modern education has accomplished is the creation of a society that focuses upon external proof of intelligence that is nothing more than a fake manufactured facade that is merely representative of that which a true intellectual possesses.  It is this same group of people whom Kerouac spoke disapprovingly about for always saying common things; common because they all received the exact same education as droves of others instead of pursuing individual enlightenment unique to the individual.

2 responses to “Why Jack Kerouac Was Right About Society”

  1. I think you have to be careful not to generalize to heavily. While it is certainly true a college education does not solely determine intellect, it is also not always a vapid journey.
    Not every teacher expects regurgitated facts. Not everyone going to college has the means (if they did, there would be no need for ever paying back a student loan). Not everyone with a college degree continues in life disinterested in expanding their knowledge.
    I think its important we understand while a college degree can be an important and necessary step in our lives just as important and necessary is expanding one’s knowledge through real world experiences and continuing on with intellectual pursuits (regardless of whether or not you have a piece of paper saying you graduated).
    I don’t know that there is any empirical evidence that suggests those with college degrees are more apt to stop learning after their school days end just like I don’t know that there is any proof those who don’t go to college are all committed to devouring knowledge throughout their lives.
    I don’t think going to college or not going to college determines one’s intelligence or if they are prone to saying common place things. I think what determines that is our level of determination, willingness to learn, and persistence.

    • This post was inspired partly by a scientific paper I read recently that was written by a psychologist whose theory stated that human intelligence is still too abstract to accuratelyeasier with the means and devices currently available to the scientific community. I discussed this theory at length with my 97 year-old retired scientist father who explained that the only accurate measurements are of physical objects and aside from physicality everything else is abstract. I appreciate your comments even if my approach to writing this article was a little far from its intended target.

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