Universities deliver adequate training in the course of major study. Although I have never supported myself in the field for which I studied, what I learned there and how I learned it gave me an enormous advantage and nuanced understanding of the field in which I have prospered. The great opportunity lost at university is in the quality and approach of the numerous “intro to” elective classes that are part of general education. Many are taught by graduate students who seem to feel that if idiots would just stop signing up for these ridiculous classes financial aid would eliminate the requirement for this service and they could get back to finishing their thesis. One of my friends told the story of one such Physics offering in which the teacher began each days class with a demonstration of angular momentum. He sat in a swivel chair with a small weight in each out stretched hand while two volunteers spun him round. He would then draw his hands closer and closer forcing the chair to turn faster and faster. This ended only after he was dizzy enough to loose his balance and crash to the floor.
There were several elective classes that were designed specifically for art students. One was “Light Color and Vision”. This was the only class I had in college that directly related to my eventual career as a theatrical lighting designer. It was taught by a very serious middle aged man that took this mission seriously. He treated the long haired scruffy tie dyed reeking of last night's party assemblage of disaffected young artists with patience doubled by the subtle gravitas he gave the subject.
And then there was Aesthetics.
I am sure the responsibility for teaching us was distasteful for someone that had devoted his life to the logic and method of philosophy. Perhaps he had lost a bet. Perhaps he could not remember the names of the department head's children. He was not happy. He made it quite clear that none of us would ever be able to understand anything that he was talking about. We were not worthy of understanding. We would not profit by attending. We debased the intellectual pursuit that he was proud of. Or so it seemed to many of us at the time
Three years later, I had latched on to a keep your rent paid JoeJob on a state highway department as a member of a survey team. Apparently they felt the same about my sense of irony that the people of my home town and soon I had been exiled to a concrete plant, by myself, running a slump test every 2 hours and not asking too many questions about the 100 year old black man that wore plaid suits with a check pork pie hat. There was a snub nose thirty eight visible on his belt and he wrote the men's numbers down on small pieces of plain paper five days a week. I had a lot of time on my hands and I felt it best to look like I wasn't paying attention to many other things I saw happening there. So I brought all the text books I had been unable to sell back to the bookstore. This kept the conversation that kept followed what'ya readin' to a minimum and somehow softened the sting of the student loans by offering some proof of the value of my shortened college education if by no other evidence but mass.
One of them was John Hosper's anthology on aesthetics- the text book used in our class. It seemed like I was reading it for the first time. This was not crap. Some of it was even interesting. Some of it was actually moving. None of it had any chance of burning through the haze of ten hours a day in a studio. But I had been away from that womb for two years and the distance could now find a companion in the separation of the experience of what art is and the study of what it can be. I had not been the victim of condescending professor. He was teaching an introduction to an esoteric branch of a greater discipline. I was on fire. He was discussing thermodynamics. Any philosophy that is not born of and borne through, the act of living is irrelevant to those in the fully immersed in act of it's everyday creation.