Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fetishizing Education?

Charles C. W. Cooke has looked at the Occupy Wall Street crowd noted that a great many of them are unemployed. Cooke is not surprised that people are miffed about that (I am upset about it and I have a job), but Cooke was incredulous at their non-sequiter, "And I went to college!" Cooke then asks, "so what?"

Now what I am about to say I say as a guy with a bachelor's degree and a law degree. There ain't nothing magical about have a degree and there is certainly no magical connection between having a degree and having a job. Outside of a few professions (like the law or medicine) you don't need a specific degree to have a job in that field. A good case in point is my friend with a zoology degree who owns and operates her own successful web development company.

Cooke goes on to write:
In the West, we are hard at work establishing a culture that fetishizes education, and instills the belief that college — regardless of its content or application — will, and should, inexorably lead to a better job, or a better life, or even a better America. Worse, that one has a right to these things. In doing so, we have created a Potemkin aristocracy, one based upon the erroneous and tragic conceit that having letters after one’s name intrinsically confers excellence. We are happily encouraging our children to join its ranks, regardless of whether there is any evidence that to do so will be in their interest. This is supremely ironic, given that so many of America’s billionaires — i.e. those who pay for more educations and create more jobs than anyone else — are college dropouts. Indeed, both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates failed to finish college. Can we say with a straight face that this has adversely affected them, or America at large?
Indeed, being an educated person is not just about degrees and one can have a bunch of letters after their name, have formal education and lack any sense of what is real in the world. Having spent four years in the Navy before returning to complete my degree, I can tell you that my first job out of college was less technically and intellectually demanding than the work I did in the Navy.

Indeed, we have so elevated the "need" and insistence that going to college is the way to the "good life" that we have forgotten, as Cooke points out, that a fair number of wildly successful people don't have a degree other than some honorary degrees bestowed later in their lives.

Having a degree, or multiple degrees, does not equate to the right to a job. Just because you are in possession of a piece of paper that says you went to college and graduated does not mean anyone has to "give" you a job as if it were your birthright. A person still has to go out a "get" a job.

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1 comment:

Boris said...

Just what I was thinking. There is degree inflation, and many people who get these degrees just because they are expected to by their families.