Saturday, July 09, 2011

Education Credentials

Via Maggie's.

George Leef comments on In The Basement Of The Ivory Tower. I don't know the book, so I'm not linking or recommending (though it sounds promising).

We have constructed a situation in which an ambitious young person must acquire an expensive and often useless degree in order to have any credibility in applying for many jobs. I absorbed the view, from reading and from family, that college was only indirectly about preparing for work - it was about becoming a complete person, a man of many parts, thoroughly grounded in Western Intellectual Tradition. One got into the most prestigious college that would accept you, studied what you wished within a narrow range of approved majors that reflected the Canon, and Western Civilisation rewarded you with employment suitable to your station at the other end. One Christmas, when college sweatshirts were fashionable for boys, a flock of them were given to our boys and their cousins: Stanford, Duke, Yale, William & Mary, Dartmouth. The message was clear.

We only gradually abandoned this; our older sons still showed a great deal of this approach themselves, though they were already breaking that mold by the time they left. The two Romanians went even farther afield, but there was still much of the old system put upon them. We still owe tens of thousands on that, too. I hope there is some clarity by the time Kyle is choosing.


james said...

the Atlantic article.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Excellent. Thank you.

David Foster said...

Over the last several decades, college has been sold *neither* on the grounds that "you need to go to college because knowledge is a Good Thing in itself" NOR on the grounds that "you need to learn these specific forms of knowlege to perform in your chosen career" BUT RATHER as "you need a DEGREE to get a good job"'s all about the piece of paper.

I saw a comment by a Computer Science professor that most of his students had no interest in learning the material, just in passing the tests and getting their degree. So even in a field as obviously directly practical and career-related at CS, learning is being devalued.

Anonymous said...

And have you noticed all the masters and doctorate programs being advertised on tv, internet, other media. They also seem to be aimed at women, minorities, others.

It is (my take entirely) about money. With lots of Federal money out there in grants, financial aid, etc, many are jumping into various schools. The "students" maybe get a benefit at the end, and the "institution" make good money up front. Not sure how many of these are really useful. All this from a former janitor that went back to school for a BA in Hist, MS in Ed, MA in Mngmt and MA in Hist. I taught at a community college for 14 yrs and, frankly, while some are "college ready" most do not finish. Many just take the money and run. I taught five sections and most started with 30 students. Most would finish with between 12 and 8 students. None had reading skills, much in the way of self-discipline nor any real understanding nore desire to do the work. All this, despite, mega formal and informal (no cost) tutor programs and availability of instructors on campus. The dumbing down of America...and we're paying for it to happen. Nuts.

David Foster said...

It's funny....securities regulations prohibit people from putting their money in certain kinds of investment (limited partnerships for drilling, for example) unless they are "Qualified Investors," meeting certain income/asset tests which indicate that they can afford to lose the money (and are also supposed to magically indicate that they have a serious understanding of investing)....yet college administrators, for-profit AND "nonprofit," sell people who are most definitely not Qualified Investors on incurring lifetimes of debt so that they (the administrators) can continue their affluent lifestyles.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

When all the pretty words about what a fine and noble thing the education institutions are doing are stripped away, and one looks at it as a commercial enterprise - an agricultural biz with a crop of students to harvest every year, for example, or perhaps an academic version of Planet Fitness - I don't think the behavior of the company looks much different. It is a government-subsidised industry and they are skilled at keeping that money flowing.

I don't doubt that most participants intend to be doing something more elevated, think of themselves that way, and even try to provide something they see as valuable for their students. But that would also be true of exercise coaches, farmers, landscapers, or ski-repair shops. We can talk ourselves into lots of things.

ErisGuy said...

"I absorbed the view, from reading and from family, that college was only indirectly about preparing for work - it was about becoming a complete person, a man of many parts, thoroughly grounded in Western Intellectual Tradition."

I can remember when I thought that was true. It survived my first tour of college but not my second. I think it's recoverable, but not for much longer.