Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Apprentice Primer

Those of you who know this site, know that I have a pretty rotten attitude about reality TV, despite the fact that I often find myself watching it for hours on end. The live season finale of the third season of Donald Trump's The Apprentice (website) is coming up. I can't tell if it will be tonight or if tonight is just the last episode before the season finale. They do this so I will watch to find out. And the saddest part is that unlike most of the contestants from this show, it works.

This season, if you have enough of a life where you're doing something productive on Thursday nights, pits successful people in business who went to college (Book Smarts) versus those with only a high school education (Street Smarts), in an attempt to settle the age old argument about whether or not it's truly worth it to go to college. At least, that's what I can come up with.

Watching the contestants from both teams makes me glad that 1) I didn't major in business management or accounting 2) I went to college. Aside from the attorneys, the college contestants are completely obnoxious, and frequently stupid. All of the contestants from the Street Smarts team are equally obnoxious with a dash of white trash thrown in for good measure. Both believe in the superiority of their own path to business success. The Street Smarts team called their team Net Worth, because they're all apparently worth millions of dollars.

This raises an interesting point about business, in general: you don't have to go to college to succeed in business, but it makes you behave a lot less like white trash if you do. I have heard people talk about this season, as though it's theme could be generalized to all professions. Frankly, I don't want my neurosurgeon or even my kid's kindergarten teacher to be someone who didn't go to college, but who people generally thinks has "street smarts".

The whole concept of "street smarts" is baffling to me. It's like saying "You're not smart in a conventional way, but damn Pete, when it comes to knowing how to panhandle for crack, you've got it all figured out." Street smarts are a bunch of crap, in my opinion. I discussed this with a street smart person the other day, and he made the point we've all heard a thousand times, which is that a lot of people who go to college are book smart, but dumb in the ways of the world.

My personal opinion is that this is a contrived idea, used to make uneducated people feel superior in some small way. This is not a rip on people who didn't go to college. I don't believe that you have to go to college to be intelligent or to be successful in this world. Thanks to the Bush Administration's cuts into federal student loans and grant programs, a whole lot of very intelligent people are not going to be able to afford to go to college. But, I do think that saying you have street smarts is a different way of saying that you're the guy that knows the difference between powder and black tar heroin, and you're proud of that fact.

Next season, I want to see an Apprentice with midgets versus people of average size. Or how about fast food employees versus Ivy League Grads? Any ideas for NBC?

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