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Family Cruise: Paul Intro

LOS ANGELES – One thought stuck with me after graduation.

It didn't come from the pages of my overpriced textbooks. It didn't come from the mouths of my underpaid professors. It came from a movie, "Good Will Hunting," where Matt Damon's character, an informally trained academic genius, tells off an Ivy Leaguer with the line: "You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f---in' education you coulda' got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library."

By today's standards, I'm armed with the knowledge and the connections to score a decent entry-level position and to start a successful career. Then why, in areas outside my field of study, do I feel so unprepared?

I don't fault Ohio University or my work ethic; both exceeded my expectations. I can talk shop about current journalism trends. I can debate politics and support my points with Socratic argument. I can navigate technology faster than it takes most people to find the power switch. Still, I often wonder what would have happened if I'd asked my father for the $120,000 up-front and built my own curriculum à la Damon's public library.

On campus, strict prerequisites and competitive class sizes pigeonhole students. Locked into my major, I had few credits to spend studying what I thought were the essential liberal arts: religion, history, literature, film, art, and philosophy. On my own time, and on my father's dime, could I have acquired a better, more complete education?

I think Damon's character is wrong in one sense: You can't learn everything in college, nor can you do so via a public library. There are life lessons outside the covers of textbooks or the walls of classrooms. I never read a textbook on style. I never heard a lecture about love. No professor ever taught a class on how to find balance (a wonder, given the stress students endure).

That's why the prospect of a four-month world cruise hooked me. My travels will stand as a semester at sea, during which I can bolster my diploma with a familiarity of the world and a knowledge of subjects modern colleges don't touch. Besides that, there's the opportunity to languish in the sun and stuff myself at gourmet buffets.

My father believes he can teach me these indispensable life lessons, although I'm skeptical that our worlds align. I'm tapped into what the working world wants. He likes to think he's semi-retired. I'm young. He's closing in on a half century. I have hair. He doesn't. I've viewed him as a disciplinarian. I've viewed him as an industry insider. Now I wonder if I can view him as my unofficial-graduate-school professor.

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