Sunday, May 30, 2010

Is college a "sucker's game?"

Vox Day has an interesting post on whether or not college is a "sucker's game:"

Going 100k into debt in order to obtain a job that pays $22 as a photographer's assistant is not an intelligent action. The correct answer to the question about attending college is "it depends". What college, what degree, and what job prospects? ....

Basically, if you have to borrow money or if you are at all prone to not finishing what you start, you shouldn't even think about going to college. And if you do go, get a degree in something meaningful, not outdated liberal arts degrees in English, Art History, or Business. You'll learn more about business running a fast food franchise for a summer than you will in six years of college. Throw in a little reading of Peter Drucker,Sun Tzu, Malcolm Gladwell, Dilbert, and whoever the business author du jour happens to be and you'll know more management-speak too.

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59 Comments:

Blogger Topher said...

Yes and no. It is said by cynics that college "teaches you to work for someone else," but even to run your own business there are skills you need you can develop in a rigorous college program.

Even liberal arts degrees are useful if students develop skills in the course of getting the degree. But in America we have developed this idea that college is a time to drink a lot, smoke pot and get away from parents. Not a conducive environment to developing the young mind, which is why even though you can get a good education at a B-level state school, the environmental impediments to it are much higher than at a top-flight school where those distractions will be less pronounced.

I used to think people doing a year off before college were crunchies and hippies and other shirkers. I've totally changed my mind - if a year off hiking or scooping ice cream or whatever is going to make someone more mature and more ready to get something out of college, I'm all for it.

Angry Studies majors are worthless.

11:03 AM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

For about half the students, yes it is a sucker's game.

There a plenty of well paying career paths that don't require a college degree. One of the nicest homes in my area belongs to the owner of an auto body shop with 4 bays. Large brick colonial with a private lake and plenty of acreage.

My oldest son recently started a valet parking business and is doing pretty well. I'm watching with great interest. It's a simple business but by giving extra courteous service and such he's managed to land some good contracts including a top tier country club where members drive Rolls and Maseratis. He's attending college also but it appears more and more that may be a waste of time and money for him.

11:07 AM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Brett said...

I evaluate college by three basic rules:

1. If you can't make your total tuition (books, lab fees, room & board, etc) back in 18 months of steady employment in your field right after graduation, then you got ripped off. I (my parents) paid $50k for my BS, and made $51k gross the first year.

2. With the possible exception of some high end hands on things like medical doctor, there is nothing college teaches you that can't be learned elsewhere. College might be faster, it might be safer, it might be easier, but it is most certainly not the only way.

3. A college degree is nothing but a piece of paper. It has no value, except to incredibly stupid people (who unfortuantly tend to be your future employers). What matters are skills and abilities. In theory, the piece of paper is an indicator of certain skills and abilities. However, anyone that says you can only do a job if you have a college degree is someone who should be sterilized for the good of humanity.

- Brett

11:25 AM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger SirSisyphus said...

College is pushed on kids and young adults worse than a ticket scalper 5 minutes before kickoff by public educators and people who don't know better. I went to University for one semester. Quitting was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's a shame how the majority of people genuinely believe that you need a college degree to experience any sort of success in life.

My advice is always this: want to go good in a career? Get a job on the lowest rung, live within your means so you can deal with the small paycheck for a while, and LEARN EVERYTHING YOU CAN IN YOUR FIELD. Not only is this the best education, but it also pays YOU to go there. One could think of it as double time: 1. you get a paycheck and, 2. No crushing debt for the next 20 years.

Of course, if you want to be a master of economics, a doctor or a lawyer, etc, then college is necessary. But there are way too many "business management" degrees gonig around out there.

11:27 AM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Trust said...

Whether or not it is a sucker's game really depends on how you use it.

Obviously, going 6 figures in debt is not smart.

Also, the "best college" argument is a wash. Most people don't know where their doctors or lawyers went to college. An affordable college is probably a wiser choice.

Getting a degree for a lower income position may or may not be a suckers game. It depends on the reason for doing it. In the case Vox described, it appeared to be so. Of course, if the goal is the career and not the income, it may not be...for example, no one becomes a teacher to make big bucks, but the degree is necessary. Just best not to go too much in debt for it.

Any more, people have been oversold on the the importance of college, the best college, and the acceptability of excessive debt to get it. That is where the sucker's game is played.

11:27 AM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Stormbringer said...

There were jobs that I applied for and had qualifications. But I was turned down because I did not have the credentials on paper, so I would have to spend big money to get that $22/hr. job.

12:26 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger br549 said...

Higher education. It's the 7th largest industry in America. Probably 6th by now, since Obama fixed the auto industry.

12:26 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger br549 said...

Higher education. It's the 7th largest industry in America. Probably 6th by now, since Obama fixed the auto industry.

12:27 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

College is a bubble. Just as with the housing market, the tech market before that, and all other over-inflated markets, it's the fault of government's easy-money policies.

"Your child will go to college!" That's what politicians promise to win votes. To accomplish this, they make college loans easy to get.

Try to get a loan to open a business. If you don't already have an established track record as a repeatedly successful entrepreneur who knows how to make money with debt, you have to have an airtight case for why you will succeed.

You need market research, a business plan, experience in that business, and very likely you will need to show that you're putting your own money into the endeavor as well. Oh, and you very likely need to be considerably older than 18 for any banker to even give you the time of day.

A college loan? What qualifications do you need? The bank will lend you tons of money to study any idiotic thing that happens to be your hearts desire. Moreover, the whole public education system is geared to steer you into this direction. Schools like to be able to pump up their stats concerning how many of their graduates go to college. The real estate people love it, too.

You know why there's the difference? When banks lend you money for a business and expect you to have some "skin in the game," it's a metaphor. When banks lend you money for college, the government ensures that your skin is in the game, literally.

Bankruptcy serves as a useful social policy. One of its effects is to ensure that lenders take some responsibility for whom they lend to. They have to take a good hard look at whether or not the borrower can pay back, or they'll lose their money.

Student loans, however, cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. The banks get paid no matter whom they lend to. Film studies at NYU? Women's studies at Amherst? Basket weaving at University of Wherever? No problem kid! Glad to do business with you and best of luck!

Who pays, ultimately? The taxpayer.

Sadly, the problem is even worse than this? How many graduates do we have out there who are able to pay their loans who are doing work that they didn't need to go to college for -- except that a college diploma has become the new high school diploma?

It's a big transfer of wealth from the American people to the bankers. Plain and simple. And we've distorted our entire economy to the point of another meltdown.

When will we ever learn?

12:37 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger SirSisyphus said...

Stormbringer -
"There were jobs that I applied for and had qualifications. But I was turned down because I did not have the credentials on paper, so I would have to spend big money to get that $22/hr. job."\


I'm hoping that this ends soon due to the fact that college degrees will be so commonplace that it won't be enough to get you ahead. Experience is what should count. Frankly, I don't see how parents can be proud of their child going to college. At one time, it was common for high school teachers and guidence counselors to remark that a college degree isn't enough anymore, but they must have figured out that it was deincentivizing kids from going because they abruptly stopped saying it.

Forty years ago, you were special for going to Uni...first in the family, excellent grades in high school, privileged family, etc. Now, any idiot kid can go directly out of high school because of the reasons Mario stated.

And Mario...beautiful man. That sums it up perfectly! Thank you!

1:19 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Aurelian said...

I think Stormbringer is right. Whether or not it is a waste, without it you, in many cases, do not even get entry. If you want your own business from the beginning a degree is not needed but otherwise.....

2:16 PM, May 30, 2010  
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3:49 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Linda said...

A few college rules of thumb:

1. If your professional plan involves going to law school, revise it and major in Something Real to begin with. Law school and its associated debt is even more of a sucker bet than undergrad.

2. Avoid any major or course with "studies" in the name.

3. If you can't figure out how your major would be used in the real world, it probably can't. Recall that before spending $50K/year on a hybrid major of religious and woman's studies.

4. Real majors require at least two of the following: math beyond calculus, chemistry with lab, and the physics series for engineers and physics majors.

5. If you must major in something "liberal", go for something with at least a bit of meat, such as history or a useful foreign language such as Mandarin (including living in the country - you'll learn the foreign language a lot quicker if you use it to find the restroom).

6. Unless you're from a very rich family or have a genuine passion for academics and deep study, avoid anything requiring a doctorate. The universe there is pretty much flooded with people getting greencards (a good thing IMO), but it means you're competing with people with little debt (they did their undergrad in the old country), etc.

4:02 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Foobarista said...

Oops - the above was mine...

4:02 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger John said...

"With the possible exception of some high end hands on things like medical doctor, there is nothing college teaches you that can't be learned elsewhere"

Well, not sure I can agree with THAT. I'm a mechanical engineer and I use what I learned in college every day. Thermodynamics, structural mechanics, and any physics or chemistry beyond the most basic introduction is just too complicated and arcane for most people to get on their own. And the type of multidisciplinary problem solving you get in your senior year is just beyond most people without some kind of mentoring and coaching from a professor.

As far as college prepping you to work for somebody else, yeah, it does that. Individual entrepreneurism is fine up to a point, but to solve the really big problems our society faces like spaceflight, the mechanization of agriculture, and most medical research, requires the collaboration of teams of smart people who can be at least temporarily relieved of immediate anxiety over their next paycheck so they can think.

Pretty much just agreeing with everything Foobarista said. No point in going to college unless you're capable of mastering a highly technical subject, or you intend to go into academics, or you just want a false sense of prestige.

4:28 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Ruth Crawford & Lisa Pelto
RE: [OT] Heh

Maybe someone should reconsider what they're doing, vis-a-vis government.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The Truth will out....]

4:58 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Mario is exactly correct. Student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. It's in the contract. Oops, there's that word again.

Hate to send all you into a tizzy again by stating the most obvious, but if you do not understand or agree with the terms and conditions of the contract, don't sign it. Because if you do, you will regret it.

The parallels between the housing market and higher education noted above are astute, as they both stem from the same disease, which is easy credit. Since anyone who can breathe can get a student loan, tuition costs have skyrocketed far above the pace of inflation. This makes it even more difficult for working or cash paying students to afford an education. So the vicious cycle feeds on itself, creating ever more debt slaves.

Moreover, it's not just that the expense has risen, but that the quality of the courses has fallen. In a traditional liberal arts curriculum, students studied the trivium (logic, grammar, rhetoric) and the quadrivium (literature, mathematics, science, and art). The skills developed in these courses prepared the graduate for virtually any career.

Since Stanford dumped the Great Books program in the 60s, and with it the traditional liberal arts curriculum, courses became more highly politicized, multiculturalized, more redundant and less relevant. Whole language replaced grammar, new math replaced computational math, science was wholly corrupted, the list goes on.

The obvious solution would be to take politics completely out of the classroom and return to a traditional skills-based curriculum. But that's not going to happen anytime soon.

6:18 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

GawainsGhost: "Student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. It's in the contract. Oops, there's that word again.

Calvin Coolidge made the famous statement concerning Britain's debt to the United States: "They hired the money, didn't they?" I can't find the exact quote, so maybe I'm completely mistaken. But, if I remember correctly, Winston Churchill's response was that Coolidge's remark was "correct, but not exhaustive."

That's my exact response, and point regarding what I've quoted you saying, above.

We can talk about contracts; but we have to ask ourselves why. Why is that the law? It isn't merely a policy, or a contract; it's the law. Student loans are not dischargeable via bankruptcy.

Disreputable contractors, irredeemable gamblers, self-styled entrepreneurs with half-baked ideas; as well as major corporations, and even government entities -- various municipalities and even state governments; all of these parties operate under the same framework. But not those borrowing money for college.

When the restriction was put in place, it was argued that it was needed because some unscrupulous young people -- free of families, homes, and other obligations -- were seeking bankruptcy to get away with not paying their loans. It was argued that their situation allowed them an angle not afforded to most.

As I see it, that's not an argument to alienate them from the same framework that the rest of society operates under. I think it's an argument against student loans in the first place.

Again, to talk of contracts is by no means exhaustive. The entire educational establishment is geared towards shuttling as many bodies as possible off to college; and public high schools act as advocates for the banks. Doesn't this strike you as bad policy?

I think when it comes to economics, the sanctity of contract, and many other things along this line, you and I may be in agreement. I just want to argue that "well, they signed a contract" doesn't reflect the entire mess that we as a society has made of young lives.

We are bringing back indentured servitude. That's a contract we could do without.

8:02 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Dr.D said...

John is entirely correct with regard to engineering. Nobody is going to become a self-made engineer these days.

That said, the market for engineers in the US is becoming progressively less and less as we go further away from manufacturing. We will continue to put up buildings and the like, so there will be a continuing need for engineers connected to construction, but that is about it for the future until there is a major policy turnaround.

8:03 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Well, actually it's in the loan document, which is a contract. The reason why we focus on the contract is because that is the controlling legal document in a court of law.

By your signature you explicitly acknowledge that you have read, understand and agree with the terms and conditions. Even if you didn't at the time you signed, later in a court of law you cannot argue that fact, because your signature is a de facto denial of it. The court will enforce the controlling legal document. Period.

8:33 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUaTJORlWdU

Oh, life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And your are not me
The lengths I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool (fool)
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said to much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I heard you try

But that was just a dream
(Try cry fly try)
That was just a dream

--REM

8:51 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Joe said...

I went to college in the early 80s. Tuition was low enough that I was able to work and pay for college and use it to explore various ideas (and end up with a "fantastic" degree in film, which, believe it or not, I actually used for several years though now I make my living programming computers.) My only real mistake was not getting an associates in CS.

My point is that many parents today remember the same thing and don't realize the debt burden that most colleges exact today and how much more useless they've become outside of Engineering (and even then, these programs could and should be vastly improved.)

11:30 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

Oh boy. The market for engineers is shrinking in America?

Yeah, try telling that to all of the oil and gas companies who are facing serious issues with our archaic infrastructure. Mention it to the technology companies who constantly poach each others' workers (who are all on H1-B visas). Or the aerospace companies, commercial high-rise builders, municipalities, water- and waste-treatment facilities, medical-device companies.

They are all desperate for engineers. And they cannot find any in America.

And one more thing: you who say you know "as much" as the guy (or woman) with the credentials -- no, you don't. Believe it or not, some of us actually honor and appreciate the parents, taxpayers, and scholarship boards who make it possible for us to attain higher education. We go to college (and grad school) and actually respect our professors enough to study and learn the material.

Put two resumes in front of me, and one has an engineering degree on it and one doesn't. What does that tell me? That the one with the engineering degree understands self-discipline, sacrifice, hard work, and respect. The one who thinks he can do as good a job without is arrogant, narcissistic, and has absolutely no respect for wisdom or authority. I'll take the first one, every time.

11:46 PM, May 30, 2010  
Blogger Tether said...

There is kind of a parallel world for women: The value of college is not just what you can earn from work with it. In fact, there have been articles in the last few years about how few women are still working a decade or two after they get their ivy league degree (even in medicine, law etc.).

The value is that they come into close contact with lots of men getting ivy league degrees in worthwhile areas.

The Chump can pay off her student loan - and he often does.

But her lifestyle is a lot higher than if she had met some Dufus at State U or (gasp) actually had to earn the money with her own work.

The payoff can be huge, as we see on a regular basis with high-end divorce settlements.

6:06 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

Herein lies the 21-st century definition of progress:

Back in the day, women would go to an all-girls school if they wanted an MRS degree. Through inter-college mixers or family connections, they'd get hooked up with a man and put their "degree" to use.

Today, the schools are gender-integrated, so women who want an MRS degree (alongside women who actually want to contribute to a field and use their education to better society) just go to Yale or Princeton or wherever, take a spot from someone who wants to use the opportunities those institutions grant, and live the dream as Hubby's homemaker.

There was an article in the NYT that said exactly this, profiling women who _while they were in college_ said they planned to drop out of the work force once they had Mr Right's kids.

7:59 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Ern said...

Is it okay for people to attend college if they just want to learn about, say, philosophy? I learned rather early in life that the purpose of education was to produce a better person. I understand the necessity to earn a living, and I'm all in favor of doing it by creating wealth and having a job in which you can take pride, but there are many worthy pursuits that don't lead to that, and many of them are best pursued with the aid of a college education.

8:10 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

Topher, do you have a link to that NY Times article? I'd love to read it.

8:32 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

Topher, do you have a link to that NY Times article? I'd love to read it.

8:32 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Tether said...

Here's one (don't know if it's the one Topher was talking about):

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/20/national/20women.html?pagewanted=print

8:43 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Vox said...

For those who are interested, I added more statistical substance to the blog post in today's WND column entitled The Declining Value of College. I think Joe is correct and most parents are making decisions based on their experience which is 20+ years out of date.

As for JB, he is largely incorrect. The inability of businesses to find Americans who have studied math notwithstanding, degrees and academic credentials are increasingly meaningless. For example, I do not have a graduate degree in economics, much less a doctorate, and yet my book is utilized as an economics textbook in the very sort of university class that I am supposedly unqualified to teach.

Based on his comments, I tend to doubt JB has much management experience or responsibility for hiring anyone. I have been a CEO for two different companies, and I have discussed this very subject with dozens of other CEOs. On that basis, I can tell you that the self-starting autodidact who has earned his qualifications through work experience and independent efforts rather than school is almost always preferred to the candidate with a degree from anything but an elite school, assuming everything else is basically equal. However, the candidate without a degree will tend to have a very difficult time getting past the HR departments of the larger corporations since they are seldom capable of ascertaining actual job-related requirements. It's easier for them to start the winnowing process by throwing out all the resumes that lack the specified education level.

8:47 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

"Is it okay for people to attend college if they just want to learn about, say, philosophy?"

Absolutely, but it is socially irresponsible to rack up a load of debt you can't pay to do so, since those costs will be passed on to society...and irresponsible of the University to allow a student to do such a thing.

Not to mention irritating to hear them complain about their debt.

8:47 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Tether said...

Quite often, the plan works. Rich Chump (hereinafter referred to as "the husband") is found, he pays off her student loans and supports her bloated, materialistic lifestyle while she doesn't work, and all is well with the universe.

Sometimes the women go too far in their optimization attempts. This Chump will do, but there is always a richer prospect around the corner.

And then they hit the age where their bargaining power starts dropping. Ruh-roh.

A buddy of mine got fixed up with a woman with well north of a 6-figure student loan, a couple of dopey degrees in cross-disciplinary something-or-other and ... (drum roll) ... no job. Her shelf-life was rapidly coming to an end, and the vagina wasn't pulling in suitable candidates like it used to.

8:50 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

wonder how many people commenting and posting in fact have gone to college?

9:02 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger David said...

A bubble exists when something...tulips, houses, stock certificates...is valued for the circular reason that it is valued. College degrees have taken on this attribute: the selling point has been *neither* "learn because knowledge is inherently valuable *nor* "learn because you'll need this specific knowledge in your career," but rather "get a *degree* to get a good job."

9:06 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger David said...

Comment in a Chicago Boyz discussion thread on energy, from someone who works in the nuclear industry:
***
Since the nuclear drawdown in the early 1990’s, and the current bias against craft training in the public schol system, we are going to be very short on welders, pipefitters, electricians, and millwrights. Electricians won’t be as big a problem as the other crafts as there are a lot of un/under-employed electricians that can be re-trained. The other crafts, especially welding and pipe fitting are young man jobs, and most of those who built the last plants are in their 50’s or retired...The public school system thinks everyone should go to college and have shut down all training at school systems..
***
Thus, people who could have been competent welders or pipefitters have instead often been directed toward some squishy subject and a future career as a barista at Starbucks or (if they're very lucky) as a starving adjunct professor with absolutely no job security.

http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/13288.html#comments

9:20 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger SirSisyphus said...

David said:
"the selling point has been *neither* "learn because knowledge is inherently valuable *nor* "learn because you'll need this specific knowledge in your career," but rather "get a *degree* to get a good job."

My little cousin was beside himself when he got a B in 3rd grade math because "[he] would now have a problem getting into college". I pose that they don't even use the "to get a good job" reasoning anymore. It's just "you have to go to college" because it is so ingrained in our culture that personal fulfillment will be unatainable without a degree. Human happiness is now totally linked with professional success. Irony alert: It's being shown that people are increasingly unhappy once they've reached that point.

9:44 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger David said...

It has to be totally frustrating for good professors to have so many students around who are only there because they're been told that they have to be...I suspect this is a factor causing many profs to deemphasize teaching and focus on research.

10:34 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger fred said...

A minority opion: the GIBill was the biggest boost this nation has had to allowing those without the means to get to college. Prior, it was the wealthy, the privilaged, mostly, that went to school.

I was planning for a "career" in a factory, working with my hands but instead ended up with a Ph.D. and had a fine and wonderful career teaching at a university. Additionally, I woke a dormant mind (my own) and I have never looked back...college offerse things other than just job preparation! If you want jobs, then go to a trade school.

10:37 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

Just to clear up a couple of incorrect assumptions on Vox's part: I am a woman. I was in engineering for 24 years, in engineering management for 11 of those years, and have run up against the hiring constraints you mention -- HR and recruiters (and 'automated' programs) that weed out qualified candidates before I ever get a chance to see them.

I also have a post-grad degree, and was -- for many of the semesters while in grad school -- the only native-English speaking TA in the department. What's more, I faced constant frustration with the American undergrads, who were woefully unprepared for college.

And to Topher's point: yes, when I was an undergrad, in just about every case, any female student in class alongside of me was only in it for her MRS degree. It was frustrating to be lumped in with such women, when I knew that I was serious about my education and my career. I confess that I took great delight in acing the exams and thus destroying the grading curve and running those bimbos right on out of class (yeah I know, sick motivation for studying hard).

p.s. I am a feminist, but I wouldn't be caught dead in any of the so-called "womens studies" courses. Talk about a waste of a student loan!

10:37 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger BobH said...

As other posters have alluded, the point of a college education isn't to get an eduction but rather to get an endorsement from a presumably credible societal institution that the graduate knows something and is capable of doing work with a particular quality level and at a particular level of intensity. Therefore, a college degree is a sort of a filter.

Fortunately, there are jobs where this level of endorsement is not required. And unfortunately, some departments teach stuff that is largely useless in the real world, particularly anthropology, sociology, philosophy and their intellectual child, Womens Studies. I think that psychology is heading that way. I have to wonder if many of the people in my psych classes, overwhelmingly female in their composition, take those classes because they believe that the classes will help them to understand their social environment better and, therefore, to manipulate it more efficiently.

11:21 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...

fred,

"wonder how many people commenting and posting in fact have gone to college?"

Probably most of them. When I had demographics for my blog in the past, the majority here has at least college and most had a professional or graduate degree. I think many of us who have been through years of college and graduate school understand that it is not always worth it. It's important to pass that information on so that others can make an informed decision.

11:45 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

"The Chump can pay off her student loan - and he often does."

-----

What really bothers me is when the guy is paying for her, and she calls him names like "chump" to her girlfriends - or ex-boyfriends - or sometimes right to the husband's face.

Women like that truly sicken me. If he's that bad, quit taking his money and get a J ... O ... B. And I can't even start to understand the men in that situation for taking that longer than one millisecond.

11:57 AM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Topher said...

"wonder how many people commenting and posting in fact have gone to college?"

Fred, what difference does that make?

12:36 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Vox said...

Just to clear up a couple of incorrect assumptions on Vox's part: I am a woman. I was in engineering for 24 years, in engineering management for 11 of those years, and have run up against the hiring constraints you mention -- HR and recruiters (and 'automated' programs) that weed out qualified candidates before I ever get a chance to see them.

I stand corrected, thanks. And you're quite right to mention recruiters as an additional problem, although they can be useful at times.

However, how does an engineering degree tell you that the holder understands self-discipline, sacrifice, hard work, and respect in light of your constant frustration with American engineering undergrads?

I am not saying that everyone with a degree is a useless slacker. I even have a BS/BA degree myself. I am merely saying that for most people of normal intelligence, obtaining a degree is the default choice. That's why I am always more impressed with the individual who achieves a high level of competence on his own. In my own narcissistic and degree-holding opinion, it's seldom narcissism, but rather familial poverty or other problematic circumstances that cause such individuals to forgo formal education.

2:41 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Most people couldn't learn integration over multiple variables/dimensions or how to solve the Schrödinger equation for a hydrogen atom or stuff like that on their own.

But frankly most engineering jobs don't require anything of the sort. Lots of engineers (for instance at the auto companies) do some fairly dopey stuff.

If you get away from that, large stretches of university topics are just absolute bullshit. Like women's studies. I'm sure you could learn all that by watching Oprah, reading the Collected Wisdom of Andrea Dworkin, and being a regular poster on Pandagon and Alas a Blog. And you could come to better conclusions by simply having a rational head on your shoulders (which would be a huge handicap in a women's studies class).

I have no idea why some people go so deeply into hock to get a university degree in something useless. Even considering the fact that society seems to irrationally assign some value - slight as it may be - to those nonsense degrees.

3:08 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger JG said...

Some degrees - particular "Angry Studies - involve learning something that does not correspond to reality. It's what universities in Medieval times tried to get away from - superstition - vs. the rational thought and deduction that seemed to correspond to reality.

Angry Studies and the like just involve a mythology that is handed down. The sloppy "scholarship" involves loosely quoting other Angry Studies people who have stupidly written something and writing about your feelings.

That should not be part of a university, and I think lots of university presidents know it deep down inside, they just know which side their bread is buttered on, and they know that feminists cause lots of problems and are loud about their demands but white males don't and aren't.

3:13 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

"A minority opion: the GIBill was the biggest boost this nation has had to allowing those without the means to get to college."

Fred, I don't think that people dispute this; but it's apples and oranges. I remember William F. Buckley writing, years ago, that the "varsity crowd" used to refer to the ex-GI's as D-A-V's -- Damn Average Raisers.

The ex-soldiers were a demographic completely separate from the rest of the college age kids at large -- then and now. They were highly motivated, focused, and mature. On average, not one of those three things can be said about kids today.

This is the mistake that is all too common among academia, social workers, politicians, and the rest of the intelligentsia -- ad hoc, ergo propter hoc. It wasn't college that made these GI's what they were; it was what they were that made them able to truly take advantage of college.

4:10 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Mario said...

Tether, thank you for the link to the article about the women in Ivy League colleges intending to stop working once they've become moms. My favorite part of the article is this:

"Some readers have asked about the reporting that went into this article."

Of course, I betray my prejudices here, but my guess is that a lot of angry feminists were incensed at the article itself and demanded accountability -- certain that "something must be wrong."

Poor dears.

4:19 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Target said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:01 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Larry J said...

The ex-soldiers were a demographic completely separate from the rest of the college age kids at large -- then and now. They were highly motivated, focused, and mature. On average, not one of those three things can be said about kids today.

From my personal experience, I strongly agree. At 18, I felt unready for college even though I had the grades. I joined the military right out of high school. It was probably the smartest thing I ever did. I was 23 before I was able to attend college full time. By then, I was highly motivated and never skipped a class and took heavy course loads every term. I finished a BS in Math in 3 years.

About half of all the kids will drop out of college short of graduation, often deeply in debt. This tells me they probably weren't prepared mentally or academically for college. If they'd taken a few years off to work and grow up, they might well have done better.

My brother Steve is a master machinist and welder. Back in the 1980s, a computer company in his area decided to open their own CAD/CAM prototyping shop. Working for a small sheet metal company, he'd made most of their prototypes before they brought the operation inhouse. They told him that "we're looking for someone with a masters degree in engineering with 6 years of experience, but you'll do." Steve is a high school dropout with a GED but had the necessary skills to do the job. He worked for them for several years. That company was smart enough to know that while Steve lacked the credentials, he more than made up for them with his proven skills. I wonder how many companies today would've given him the chance.

The key to a successful career isn't necessarily having a degree but having skills someone is willing to hire. Personally, I'd never hire someone with an "Angry Studies" degree because they're likely a professional malcontent. We need people who know how to work, to learn new skills, and analyze difficult problems. Almost everyone I work with is a military veteran, mostly in their 40s to 60s.

8:08 PM, May 31, 2010  
Blogger Evan M. Thomas said...

Hey, don't bash the liberal arts degree! An English degree can get you a lot of work.

A degree is what you make of it. I know people with law degrees who wait tables.

9:59 AM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

Vox asked: "how does an engineering degree tell you that the holder understands self-discipline, sacrifice, hard work, and respect in light of your constant frustration with American engineering undergrads?"

Simply this: the ones who were not willing to put in the sacrifice, hard work, and self-discipline switched majors or dropped out. The ones who had the character to stay with it got to call themselves "engineers".

9:14 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger MarkD said...

Griggs vs Duke Power pretty much killed the aptitude test, and spawned a lot of the degree required that you see everywhere. I couldn't have gotten or kept the job I held all my life, were it not for military experience and the degree.

6:29 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

An engineering degree is not an easy get. JB is right.

I have only an associates in electronics, but I think that blows most PHD's out of the water, nowadays. Really.

Reasons for college: for one, if you don't go, people will think you are retarded. It is social death. Unless you are independently wealthy, in which case, people will think you are a wealthy retarded person.

Many large employers hire only college grads. Indeed, I know places that tell their managers, get a degree in something, or you got to go, if they don't have one. It's a sickness.

Our society is now embarked on a course of social stratification, based on intelligence. A degree is needed for social acceptance, in addtion to employment.

6:53 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Xiaoding, you seem pretty proud of that associates degree. How many engineering PhDs have you blown out of the water?

7:00 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

Dr. D: Obviously, I was not speaking of engineering degrees. Or any other REAL degrees. What is your degree in?

7:05 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Xiaoding, my degrees are MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

8:46 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger Male Samizdat said...

Angry Studies? That is an "academic discipline"? You have GOT to be kidding me!

That's almost as bogus as forensic psychology....

(Just checking if you read the comments, Dr. Helen :D )

Anyway, besides the fact that degrees are values b/c they are valued (the BEST definition of a bubble I've ever seen, BTW), I think there's another reason young men go to college instead of learning a trade (which you still can do). Modern women turn their noses up at tradesmen. What woman wants to be married to a plumber when you can be married to a man with a business degree? Young men instinctively know this, and will flock to college even when it is absolutely, positively not in their best interests, because they know where they can find the women.

If young men weren't so hormone-bound, they would see that by pursuing the trades, they would (1) not waste time (2) not waste money (3) avoid getting married to today's American woman, which is nearly equivalent to avoiding both divorce and Oprah's Star Chamber...I mean, "Family Court".

Until society values the blue-collar craftsman again, there is going to be this terribly unhealthy over-emphasis on college education.

Besides, if you want to engage in Angry Studies...you can always work for the United States Postal Service! :P

10:51 PM, June 03, 2010  
Blogger Kevin M said...

If you read Sun Tzu, read the Samuel Griffith translation. He was a USMC General who specialized in Mao and ancient Chinese military. All other translations are like skim milk to his brilliant annotated version.

3:21 AM, June 05, 2010  

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