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(Washington Post)   "Soon the crucial distinction will be between those with meaningful college degrees and those with worthless ones." Jubal Harshaw unavailable for comment   (washingtonpost.com) divider line 172
    More: Obvious, academic degrees, Friedrich Hayek, social institutions, Catholic University, achievement gap, distinctions, almanacs  
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7431 clicks; posted to Main » on 12 Jan 2014 at 1:25 PM (40 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-01-12 10:56:03 AM  
And by "soon" they mean ten years ago.
 
2014-01-12 11:27:25 AM  
Crap. I'd hoped that buying a ridiculously expensive and extravagant frame would distract people from the utter uselessness of my degree.
 
2014-01-12 11:55:40 AM  
My degrees wouldn't be worthless if there were jobs available.  But, seeing has Congress has that laser-like focus on other things...
 
2014-01-12 12:04:11 PM  

raerae1980: My degrees wouldn't be worthless if there were jobs available.  But, seeing has Congress has that laser-like focus on other things...


Solution: work for Congress.
 
2014-01-12 12:20:09 PM  
His argument doesn't seem to be as much about the actual degree (i.e. mechanical engineering vs. French literature) as much as it is about the school that the degree is from.  The whole premise is that those who are raised by well-educated parents and who move in social circles made up primarily of wealthier people tend to be more successful.

There's some truth to that as developing the right habits, learning proper decorum for civilized society, and having the opportunities to network with others who are more likely to succeed can certainly give you a leg up in life.  However, he seems to equate all of that as being some kind of inevitable natural law, as if the wealthy are just naturally superior, and that nothing can be done to change that, and that part is just irredeemable classist bullshiat.

Reading between the lines it seems as if his concern isn't the diminishing capability for social and economic mobility, but rather that those from working class and poor families are bothering to try at all.
 
2014-01-12 01:27:46 PM  
Soon?
 
2014-01-12 01:29:14 PM  
Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT
 
2014-01-12 01:30:37 PM  
No one cares about your degree if you're running your own company.
 
2014-01-12 01:30:53 PM  
References to "Stranger in a Strange Land": always wake me up.
 
2014-01-12 01:31:12 PM  
Yeah, 'cause what we need is more farking MBAs who think they know how to run things
 
2014-01-12 01:31:32 PM  

raerae1980: My degrees wouldn't be worthless if there were jobs available.  But, seeing has Congress has that laser-like focus on other things...


Things like crashing the American health insurance industry, rolling back on veteran benefits, and pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens.
 
2014-01-12 01:33:37 PM  

BalugaJoe: References to "Stranger in a Strange Land": always wake me up.


I think a better Heinlein reference, with regards to "worthless degrees" would have been to Zebadiah John Carter, from "The Number of the Beast".
 
2014-01-12 01:34:39 PM  

CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT


BA in Portuguese, minor in Linguistics

Also in IT...
 
2014-01-12 01:34:52 PM  
All that matters is who you know, not what you know.
 
2014-01-12 01:35:22 PM  

BalugaJoe: References to "Stranger in a Strange Land": always wake me up.


I re-read it a couple of years ago but I don't remember what Jubal might have said on this subject.  As the requisite cantankerous rabble rouser character he had a lot to say.

I did think of him the other day when I read about an author who self publishes through amazon, and he just cranks out story after story of mindless pulp and makes a killing through sheer quantity.
 
2014-01-12 01:35:26 PM  
Yeah, my BS in mechanical engineering serves me well as a used book dealer.
 
2014-01-12 01:37:07 PM  
The world needs ditch diggers (with Masters in Contemporary Lesbian Poetry) too.
 
2014-01-12 01:37:11 PM  

Reverend Monkeypants: Yeah, 'cause what we need is more farking MBAs who think they know how to run things


Probably preferable to those with Master of Divinity.
 
2014-01-12 01:37:26 PM  
If I could do it all over again I'd get an engineering degree instead of English.  I have an engineering position now but it took me longer to get here than it otherwise would have.  No regrets though, I was utterly unfocused in college and would have wasted engineering...maybe some Ritalin would have helped.
 
2014-01-12 01:37:47 PM  
"Front!"
 
2014-01-12 01:38:36 PM  

desertfool: CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT

BA in Portuguese, minor in Linguistics

Also in IT...


I could really use that, Brazil is blowing up right now, I do a good bit of work with companies there.
 
2014-01-12 01:38:51 PM  

AverageAmericanGuy: No one cares about your degree if you're running your own company.


I'd probably die of stress if I ran my own business. Some of us just aren't wired for management and entrepreneurship....

/ I like my current job and most of the people I work with, including my boss
 
2014-01-12 01:38:52 PM  

CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT


desertfool: CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT

BA in Portuguese, minor in Linguistics

Also in IT...


OK, so, for someone who has a non-IT related degree, and work experience that's only tangentially related, how do you make that transition?  Did you just teach yourself and then start applying, get some of the myriad of certifications that are out there (and which ones are worth having?), take IT classes, or go another route?

All of the entry-level IT postings I've seen around here seem to want someone with an IT-related degree who's willing to work for $10/hour.
 
2014-01-12 01:38:55 PM  

desertfool: CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT

BA in Portuguese, minor in Linguistics

Also in IT...


I'm also in IT. Graduated from the ca culinary academy in SF.
 
2014-01-12 01:39:20 PM  
baconbeard: The world needs ditch diggers (with Masters in Contemporary Lesbian Poetry) too.

Pretty much. I have a BS in Geology from a phenomenal department and I'm a glorified janitor.
 
2014-01-12 01:40:46 PM  
i.usatoday.net
 
2014-01-12 01:42:54 PM  
If your college degree qualifies you to do a job that can be done through a wire, then it is probably not meaningful.
 
2014-01-12 01:43:35 PM  
This column is garbage.

Will spends the first 3/4 of it stating and restating the argument that academic accomplishment is linked to socioeconomic status, and then lurches abruptly towards the conclusion that... I'm not sure, really.  I think he's upset that the cachet of being A Collegiate Gentleman has been weakened since they started letting The Poors matriculate.
 
2014-01-12 01:44:08 PM  

TuteTibiImperes: His argument doesn't seem to be as much about the actual degree (i.e. mechanical engineering vs. French literature) as much as it is about the school that the degree is from.  The whole premise is that those who are raised by well-educated parents and who move in social circles made up primarily of wealthier people tend to be more successful.

There's some truth to that as developing the right habits, learning proper decorum for civilized society, and having the opportunities to network with others who are more likely to succeed can certainly give you a leg up in life.  However, he seems to equate all of that as being some kind of inevitable natural law, as if the wealthy are just naturally superior, and that nothing can be done to change that, and that part is just irredeemable classist bullshiat.

Reading between the lines it seems as if his concern isn't the diminishing capability for social and economic mobility, but rather that those from working class and poor families are bothering to try at all.


This.  I'd like to see an America where a STEM grad from a state college has at least as much of a chance as an Ivy League social sciences legacy endowment grad, but it doesn't exist yet.  As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his latest book David and Goliath, only the top tier US science grads from top tier schools are assured of a good science job, even though mediocre Ivy science students have gone on to graduate at the top of their classes in state schools.

Those who wish to surck the cawks of the rich, as George Will has done throughout his life, will still be needed, regardless of what kind of a degree they have.
 
2014-01-12 01:45:36 PM  

TuteTibiImperes: All of the entry-level IT postings I've seen around here seem to want someone with an IT-related degree who's willing to work for $10/hour.


I can mention on this point that a lot of entry level IT postings that are paying less then $20/hour don't really need the degree and will hire people who are capable even if they don't have such a degree.  Apply to them any ways.  The degree lets you side-step the trench-run of call centers and bestbuy back-shop repair gigs that's all, at least until you want to get at something really good, then the degree kinda helps prove you are capable of learning at that level.  I did the slogging through the trenches route and then went back for a two year diploma, I've got the experience in the trenches backed up with a paper proving I'm good with the modern technologies, worked out really well.
 
2014-01-12 01:46:00 PM  

BalugaJoe: References to "Stranger in a Strange Land": always wake me up.


You mean, the Leon Russell and the Shelter People tune?  Going to find it on the YouTubes to wake myself up.
 
2014-01-12 01:46:33 PM  

BalugaJoe: [i.usatoday.net image 245x330]


lol, I hope you don't actually believe any of that tripe.
 
2014-01-12 01:48:16 PM  

MrSplifferton: desertfool: CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT

BA in Portuguese, minor in Linguistics

Also in IT...

I'm also in IT. Graduated from the ca culinary academy in SF.


Was working towards a degree in IT. Suddenly got a job in IT. Thinking quickly, switched majors to American Studies. Never finished, but at least I dodged the BS-in-IT-and-work-in-IT trap.
 
2014-01-12 01:48:48 PM  

Mrbogey: raerae1980: My degrees wouldn't be worthless if there were jobs available.  But, seeing has Congress has that laser-like focus on other things...

Things like crashing the American health insurance industry, rolling back on veteran benefits, and pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens.


How is it getting 40 million new customers going to crash the 'Merkan health insurance industry? Are they THAT incompetent?
 
2014-01-12 01:50:29 PM  
What was the point of this article? He says families are important, but socioeconomic status is a massive predictor, and opportunity increases inequality, but being without opportunity is negative due to developmental differences, and then a need for mental acuity which is developmental in nature, followed by how university is becoming easier, and ending on a seeming stab towards government loans and grants while stating mobility needs to become true.

Is this saying school is failing people from low socioeconomic status because government loans are making universities accept people of lower qualifications in order to simply bring in money and people would overall have greater mobility without this opportunity to attend?
 
2014-01-12 01:52:01 PM  

Vangor: What was the point of this article? He says families are important, but socioeconomic status is a massive predictor, and opportunity increases inequality, but being without opportunity is negative due to developmental differences, and then a need for mental acuity which is developmental in nature, followed by how university is becoming easier, and ending on a seeming stab towards government loans and grants while stating mobility needs to become true.

Is this saying school is failing people from low socioeconomic status because government loans are making universities accept people of lower qualifications in order to simply bring in money and people would overall have greater mobility without this opportunity to attend?


Them that's got will get. Them that's not shall lose.
 
2014-01-12 01:53:20 PM  

BolshyGreatYarblocks: This.  I'd like to see an America where a STEM grad from a state college has at least as much of a chance as an Ivy League social sciences legacy endowment grad, but it doesn't exist yet.  As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his latest book David and Goliath, only the top tier US science grads from top tier schools are assured of a good science job, even though mediocre Ivy science students have gone on to graduate at the top of their classes in state schools


I tend to disagree.  I think the degree is far more important than the school.

I have an engineering degree from a state college, and had an easy time getting a job even in 2010 when jobs were scarce.  After your first job, the school you went to is almost irrelevant to getting another job.

If you're choosing a field so competitive that you're truly worried about whether you CAN get a first job, then yes, but then I'd suggest putting your talents to use in a field with higher demand.
 
2014-01-12 01:53:59 PM  
Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and  Business, Law, Medical (some of which falls under those 4 STEM degrees).

Most of the arts are worthless unless you want to be an art/music teacher. A degree from a highly respected art institute or top music school is the only exception. I think that's partly because you have to have truly exceptional talent to get into, and through, most of those schools, which means you actually have a shot at making a good living in that world.

It shouldn't be a surprise that the degrees that take the most effort to get, and that have a lot of "boring" classes, are the most useful to have. I went to business school because I knew I wanted a career in the arts, but wanted a degree that would be useful no matter what I did. Probably the only sound decisions that I made as an 18 year old.

And get SKILLS. Knowing the Office programs really well, being skilled at making great presentations and reports, knowing Photoshop and video editing software, has done more to help my career than the economics and accounting classes that I took.
 
2014-01-12 01:54:02 PM  
By the way, after a quick look-up, George Will has a BA in Religion and MA and PhD in Politics; are there any more worthless degrees than those on religion and politics?
 
2014-01-12 01:55:30 PM  

poot_rootbeer: This column is garbage.

Will spends the first 3/4 of it stating and restating the argument that academic accomplishment is linked to socioeconomic status, and then lurches abruptly towards the conclusion that... I'm not sure, really.  I think he's upset that the cachet of being A Collegiate Gentleman has been weakened since they started letting The Poors matriculate.


That's a very astute deconstruction of his argument. You must have studied logic and rhetoric in college. Unfortunately, that's not getting the fries cooked, now is it? GBTW!
 
2014-01-12 01:55:46 PM  

Vangor: By the way, after a quick look-up, George Will has a BA in Religion and MA and PhD in Politics; are there any more worthless degrees than those on religion and politics?


Really.

He should be in IT.
 
2014-01-12 01:57:38 PM  
I am shocked, SHOCKED that a degree in 16th century japanese lesbian poetry will only get you a job making coffee at Starbucks.
 
2014-01-12 01:57:56 PM  
It's not so much whether the degree has meaning as whether the educational experience has meaning. We've been sold a platitude that education is the key to success. The problem with this statement isn't its accuracy: education is indeed the key to success. The problem is its precision. Education is only the key to success if you come out of it with a skill.

But that's not a matter of what degree you have. Almost any field of study can yield great skills, if you approach them with the right attitude. But that attitude is critical: you have to approach your education with an eye toward what you're going to do with it, and toward learning how to do the things you'll need to do in your later life. There is still room for idle curiosity and exploration in your college years, but that can't be your main focus, or you'll come to the point where you need to do these things at a time when it is too late to catch up.

It's no secret that there's a big divide between contemporary STEM and contemporary liberal-arts academia on many issues, but one of the biggest divides is in their attitude toward education. In a word, STEM folks tend strongly to get this, and liberal-arts folks tend strongly not to, and they both pass their respective attitudes on to their students. Liberal-arts degrees don't have to be meaningless, but this attitude makes them meaningless. They're poisoning their own student bodies, and they don't even realize it.
 
2014-01-12 01:58:10 PM  
25 hours a week in 1961? In Elect. Eng, it was like 25 hours of courses a week, 30 hours studying, and 10 hours playing pinball for money to pay my way. The rest of the time I was so wasted I have no clue what I did. Pretty sure some of it was sleeping though.
 
2014-01-12 01:59:16 PM  

Sum Dum Gai: After your first job, the school you went to is almost irrelevant to getting another job.


Yep. It just becomes casual water cooler conversation when your school is playing football against your boss's school. I don't think anyone at a job has ever once asked me what school I went to. What you've done since then is what counts.
 
2014-01-12 02:04:08 PM  

AverageAmericanGuy: No one cares about your degree if you're running your own company.


This.


/political science degree
//owns own company
///rich-ish
 
2014-01-12 02:04:47 PM  
So, another thread about how 18 year olds should already know what they want to do with their lives, where they want to do this thing, and be able to predict the job market for the next 20 years before they even apply to their junior colleges so they can save money while living at home with mom and dad?

We get it, math good, not math bad, and more people going to college is a bad thing for reasons.
 
2014-01-12 02:05:17 PM  
The humanities end of the liberal arts will continue on, mostly in smaller universities.  The social science degrees are losing their value and are quickly coming to an end.  Maybe it is a good thing not everyone is getting a college degree and may learn pipefitting or welding instead.

A professor once call a specific social science field a ponzi scheme.
 
2014-01-12 02:05:40 PM  

TuteTibiImperes: CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT

desertfool: CruJones: Is this where I say I'm a very well employed philosophy major?

/degrees don't matter after your first job
//BA philosophy, minor in chemistry
///IT

BA in Portuguese, minor in Linguistics

Also in IT...

OK, so, for someone who has a non-IT related degree, and work experience that's only tangentially related, how do you make that transition?  Did you just teach yourself and then start applying, get some of the myriad of certifications that are out there (and which ones are worth having?), take IT classes, or go another route?

All of the entry-level IT postings I've seen around here seem to want someone with an IT-related degree who's willing to work for $10/hour.


For me, I was in sales, and sales is sales. Once in IT sales, I learned some IT. Now I sell and am in charge of a product team. As far as I can tell our company doesn't care about your degree, or even if you have one, if you're willing to start entry level. From there you can go in fifty directions.

/I don't think any company has even checked whether I actually went to college
//worked for two F100 companies
///IT is more fun, and I can dress like a bum
 
TWX
2014-01-12 02:05:47 PM  
I think that, in time, the useless degrees will be the business school degrees, especially in the undergraduate and masters levels. The entire purpose of those schools seems to be to remove the rest of the liberal arts components from what should be a Bachelor of Arts degree, where one not only learns the craft but also learns how the application of it affects society. That's the main reason for the humanities, to learn how society has been impacted by decision in the past to help those making decisions in the future to understand the ramifications of their decisions.

Business schools strip out all of the understanding and focus on the profit, not considering the long-term ramifications of short-term decision-making. That's why everyone's so concerned about quarterly results, and why we see so many things that we shouldn't be concerned about day-to-day thrust into the forefront, like political elections that are literally years down the road. Because of this myopic focus we have to narrow in on things that don't matter yet to figure out how they affect us now, when they don't even affect us now except through this feedback loop of overinterpretation.

/thinks all degree programs should have a healthy dose of humanities
//even the hard sciences and engineering programs
 
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