Home > Art, Entertainment, Life, Would I Lie? > Ferris Bueller Never Actually Took a Day Off

Ferris Bueller Never Actually Took a Day Off

Disclaimer: There will be college bashing in this episode….

I know, I know…. you think that just because I didn’t finish college I have an axe to grind, since that’s all some feel I am qualified to do. Well, maybe, that’s part of it, but this is more than just a rant, even though I’ve lost out on corporate promotions to peers eminently less qualified simply because I didn’t have credentials equal to their Physical Education degrees. This is actually an appeal to the gods of creativity to come out of hiding and speak up!

I learned two new things today  (despite the fact that I didn’t finish college and learning is more challenging for me :D):

1. The mystery about which Chicago Cubs game Ferris Bueller and his friends went to in the movie has finally been solved. I must admit I’m relieved to have that crossed off my list of things to wonder about.


2. James Altucher compiled a list called “8 Things Your Kids Should Do Instead of Going To College“. Having had this very conversation at lunch today, I checked it out. Here are the 8 magical things:

1. Start a business

2. Travel the world

3. Create art

4. Make people laugh

5. Write a book

6. Work in a charity

7. Master a game

8. Master a sport

Dang! I could have told you all that and made millions myself instead of him! I don’t even know the guy but I’m intrigued by his postulation. (See, even some of us drop-outs know big words too)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ” made a modern-day hero out of a brilliant goofball kid who showed us the value of being on the ball and thinking creatively to get where we want to go. It also illustrated the profound boredom engendered by the school curricula mandated by state and federal governments. Though the movie doesn’t reveal to us his life beyond that day, we can pretty much assume that his wealthy family was able to send him to one of the best colleges in the country, which likely did little to prepare him for life any more than he was already prepared by the time he was 12.

Mr. Altucher’s list isn’t meant to discourage people from going to college at all (he’s a college grad himself), but rather, it suggests that many kids, most of them, would benefit from “trying out the world” first. At a time when their financial liabilities are at the lowest point they’ll probably ever be, he advocates experimenting with ideas that they’ve never tried or considered. When they have a better sense of who they are and what drives them, THEN they should go to college.

I couldn’t agree more.

College has become insanely expensive and these days there is little, if any, payoff for the graduate. A degree used to be assurance of a place in the job market but not anymore. Today, if you don’t have the creative wherewithal of a Ferris Bueller, you’re likely sitting “with your thumb in your bum and your brain in neutral” (as my college-educated daddy used to say) while you wait for the job market to open up and offer you a place in the system of life. If the next step isn’t flashing right in front of you and there isn’t someone giving you permission to take it, you’re likely blinded by the light. For those who have followed the aligned steps into adulthood already, worked hard, and ended up losing everything anyway, it’s even harder to reconcile that slap in the face.

With these realities in mind, why do we encourage young people to get themselves into a financial hole so early on? Why is it necessary for an 18-year-old to know what direction they’re going to take for the rest of their lives the minute they step out of their high school cap & gown? Would that $20,000 first semester tuition payment be any less fruitfully spent taking a year or two to try out those ideas they’ve had? At a point in their lives when success or failure has far fewer consequences, wouldn’t this be the time to attempt them and learn the realities so that college will afford them the direction they seek?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for knowledge, and in the age of the Internet it’s at my fingertips any time I want. Heck, I don’t even have to go to the library anymore! So why am I required to spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to squander four years of my youth being filled up with largely useless (to me) knowledge in order to be considered valuable to society? Wouldn’t it be better if I understood who I am and what I have to offer before trying to stick me in a spot where I clearly don’t fit?

Today, I looked at art that I waited my lifetime to create and had the incomparable payoff of hearing people praise it.  I’d probably be laughed right out of a gallery, but someone actually paid me money to paint something that is bringing people pleasure. No college diploma would ever have offered me that sense of satisfaction.

I have yet to travel the world, write a book, or master a game. I’ll get right on that.

Or maybe I’ll just call up Ferris and James and see if they want to take in a ball game.

  1. Ted
    February 11, 2011 at 6:44 am

    $26,000 for my daughter’s first year at college, and her posthumously arrogant Botany professor says to all of his students on their first day in class, “Every one of you will be lucky to have passed my class with a D average.” I so wanted to make the trip up north to Maine to visit this clown and give him a little instruction of my own. A life lesson from a Dad who believes in encouraging the minds of our future to reach for your attainable goals and dream bigger than what you think you can achieve, not to inform them of the fruitless struggle ahead of them. The professor, and I use that word quite loosely, lived up to his word and failed most of the class and granted no one a grade above a D, which I heard in conversation after conversing with some of my daughter’s college friends. Ellen, if you remember Miss Epstein from FMRHS, she told me something that sticks in my head to this day, after she saw me struggle with my classwork. “Focus on the task at hand and don’t fear being left behind,” which I reasoned as, ‘your best work is done when you are not racing to be like the others.’ She was a great teacher.

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