So, here I am, bored out of my mind and facing a long period of time stuck working on education instead of fun things like writing and World of Warcraft (which I love to play and am to broke to do so). I, like so many of "educational" age, face an almost constant battle of making ourselves go to class and learn, especially in college where it is supposed to be voluntary.
So, why do we do it? The answer depends mostly on each individual student. For me, it's mostly a matter of long ingrained habits of doing my work rather than goofing off. (I don't mean to sound conceited. I honestly wish I had it in me to skip class and goof off, but with my luck I'd miss something important so I don't chance it.) It's not about long term goals or rewards. Most of what I want to do in life can be done without a degree, though one does help. The value of something is often marked by its rarity and how much people desire it. It's the same with degrees and with so many students out there, working the daily grind for the grade, a diploma isn't as rare as it used to be say, ten, twenty, or fifty years ago. Sure, you can earn more money with a degree than without one, but that depends as much on which one you get as it does having one.
Back to the question of why do millions of students spend what could be the best years of our youth and our lives working away for pieces of paper with fancy penmanship? I think the biggest one is Social Pressure. People are programed all their lives to value success, and rightly so, and then told that the best way to get that success is to wear these clothes or to go to college or any number of other things in order to gain that success. I'm not saying a college degree isn't worth the time and effort, but it really isn't worth what it used to be.
Some degrees offered these days don't even make sense. One example I have from personal experience is a BA of Creative Writing. Now, forgive me for any arrogance, but that degree is crap! Honestly, I don't think I've read a single author who got a degree in creative writing, and I read a lot. Honestly classes can help, but almost anyone can learn to write and some are born with an innate talent for it, so to have a college degree for making fiction doesn't make sense to me (then again, neither does grapefruit.)
Other degrees used to be important, but have lost much of their status. History and English being the main two I can think of. With the advent of the internet and blogs like this, not to mention forums, texting, and a dozen of other forms of communication the rules of English have been shot to hell. As for history, very few people are interested in what happened today, much less a year ago. Take that back fifty years and beyond WWII and frankly my dear, most people don't give a damn. Want a fun game, go see how many people working at the bookstore have English degrees. As for history, anything short of a Doctorate and you're all but useless. Add in economic troubles and business degrees start to lose their power as well (though only slightly, the future will tell us the fate of business in this and every other nation).
So, in a new Millennium and a new decade, one in which we've been promised hope and change, yet face ever growing amounts of just the opposite, how do we justify our lives and push for higher education? I can't answer that for you. Hell, I can barely answer it for myself at times, but I push forwards if only because the answer might be on the next page, the next hill, or the next day.