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Ha. - MisterPengo — LiveJournal
August 17th, 2008
06:15 pm
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Ha.
Continuing that long-running blogger/LJ-user trend of posting articles just because they confirm their own beliefs, I give you this:

For Most People, College Is a Waste of Time

Some choice quotes.

Outside a handful of majors -- engineering and some of the sciences -- a bachelor's degree tells an employer nothing except that the applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance. Even a degree in a vocational major like business administration can mean anything from a solid base of knowledge to four years of barely remembered gut courses.

The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.



I favor autodidactism, certification, and the essential end of the university system as we know it - so naturally, I'm all in favor of the tone this article takes, though I'd go several steps ahead of it - primarily because I don't just view the university system as inefficient and outdated, but generally nefarious and an anchor around the neck of modern society. It remains the last archaic institution whose existence and membership should be regarded with the same level of skepticism we treat political leaders, business leaders, and religious leaders to.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:frogbot
Date:August 17th, 2008 11:42 pm (UTC)
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I've learned more about programming on the job and in my own spare time than I did in two years of college supposedly toward a computer science degree. Maybe some people need High School The Sequel, but I seem to do better if I can focus my own learning.
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From:misterpengo
Date:August 18th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)

Absolutely.

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I think learning on the job is one thing that nothing can replace, but there's a tremendous amount to be said for teaching yourself as well. It's one reason I love the concept of certification over degrees - you know what you need to know for a given job. And if you pass certification, your employer has a greater (certainly not perfect) confidence that you actually know something pertinent to the job.

I get a bit creeped out by this insistence that not only is self-learning just too hard, but it should be discouraged because colleges are always the better option.
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From:sensei256
Date:August 18th, 2008 12:23 am (UTC)
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I learned far more in college, and I still use the concepts I learned that that I probably would not have easily picked up elsewhere.

It boils down to "why go to university?" If it is to pick up a specific set of skills (i.e. I already have a field and major selected), sure, a degree is worthwhile.

If the goal boils down to "I can follow directions from people higher up", well, say hello to your liberal arts degree?

This is essentially the quoted paragraphs, and I'm not disputing that.
I still think the solution is in "better degrees", though.
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From:misterpengo
Date:August 18th, 2008 01:39 am (UTC)
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See, there's this mental jump there that I just can't get into. "If you want a specific set of skills, get a degree."

To me that's like saying, if you want a banana, get a Sam's Club membership. I mean, they have bananas there, right? And if they're the only place in town where you can get a banana, that's that. But they're not the only place to get a banana - in fact, I can go to places that are more appropriate if that's what I'm aiming for. In the context of an education, if you can educate yourself - especially considering you can typically do so for vastly less money and time than a college will ask of you - you should do that.

Now, I know you'll fire back 'Not everyone can learn on their own'. For the hell of it, let's say I grant that. Would you agree that any person who can learn on their own, should? And that if people who can't learn on their own can become a person who CAN learn on their own, they should be encouraged to do so?
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From:sensei256
Date:August 18th, 2008 02:31 am (UTC)
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> "If you want a specific set of skills, get a degree."

I didn't say this. The banana analogy is stupid, because it's not an argument I was actually making, and I'll skip it.


Even so, the article treats universities as an investment of time and money. This is not unreasonable.
If your goal is "To get a job that I want" and those jobs require a bachelor's or a master's, then one may consider college a good investment. If your goal is something else, or if your goals aren't set, then maybe different options are better. I concede that "college is not automatically the best option for 100% people", but I don't think that was in any major dispute.

(Whether certain jobs should require a degree is a topic I don't feel like getting into in this comment box.)

If you want to argue the merits of self-study, fine. But I'm not going to spatter a bunch of random arguments on either direction until I see an actual topic emerge.
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From:misterpengo
Date:August 18th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
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You: It boils down to "why go to university?" If it is to pick up a specific set of skills (i.e. I already have a field and major selected), sure, a degree is worthwhile.

Me, paraphrasing you: If you want a specific set of skills, get a degree.

Lighten up, Francis. You're getting too snippy, too fast over what is a pretty meager topic.
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From:sensei256
Date:August 18th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC)
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I want to guess which Francis it is, but I can't think of anything in Aqua Teen named that.

That said, the difference between "is worthwhile" and the imperative verb is more than trivial, but that's an issue with semantics expressed in a comment box.

And relax. Just because I disagree with you strongly doesn't mean much. You're the one who claims to like to bring up controversial topics.
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From:misterpengo
Date:August 18th, 2008 03:47 am (UTC)
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And my analogy was brought up to point out that just because a given course of action technically satisfies a given desire, it doesn't automatically make it reasonable or wise for said course to...

Look at this pedantic shit. Online arguments haven't changed since the first fucker wrote angrily at someone else on fidonet. I tell you to lighten up after you snap about how my analogy is stupid and 'spattering random arguments' when I politely explained why I disagree with you, your response is to tell me to relax in turn because the person who's accused of being worked up is docked points in the imaginary ruleset of internet arguments. You're down to bickering over imperative verbs with me now and their relative force in combox conversation.

Here, I'll make this easy: You're acting like Hitler. Oh shit, I Godwin'd, ergo I'm wrong.
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From:sensei256
Date:August 18th, 2008 04:09 am (UTC)
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I decline the gambit. :) Accordingly, I'll switch back to matters of substance.

I still say that, for some, depending on their goals, a degree is worthwhile. Depending on their situation (regular degree, science degree, skilled trades, etc.) this may or may not be the best choice. There is the side debate of whether it is right that certain fields require degrees. Either way, I hesitate to break down the line-by-line but it's easy for me to get lost in there.

To rephrase with proper respect, I have not engaged in a straight debate on "self-study" mostly because there I don't have any proper definitions or a framed debated. Does self-study include X or Y or Z? Are those compatible with other ways of learning? Etc. This is probably worth another blog topic by itself.

There's no way we'll ever come to a perfect consensus in online form. Then again, if we were writing 3000 word essays, I don't think we'll get there either. So, it's not really a matter of winning or losing, but making points until we get bored and play more Strong Bad.
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From:misterpengo
Date:August 18th, 2008 04:44 am (UTC)
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It's not consensus, it's just courtesy. If I wanted to get in the typical snide and insult-laced e-argument, I'd head to SA and let out 'Richard Dawkins is just compensating because a vicar jacked him off when he was a kid'. I'd be racking up the faggots per second at quite a clip.

My take on the university system covers more bases than value per dollar, naturally. But I'll be outright and bracketed and say that I favor developing certification systems such that a man can get a job doing sensitive hi-tech work with no degree to his name. If such a system could provide confidence that a given hire has the expertise needed and he has the initiative to self-study his way to that point, fantastic. That's something to encourage, not discourage. Obviously that goes for less specialized work as well.

I'm in favor of it for more tertiary reasons as well. Just want to learn about history, or biology? If you can teach yourself by reading books and studying on your own, so much the better. But that, I think, leads into the real contentious area.
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From:sensei256
Date:August 18th, 2008 05:33 am (UTC)
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I apologize for being less than courteous. I should lose major points for heading for semantics. I do get annoyed with the tactic of "misrepresent your opponent, attack the misrepresentation". On another reading, this wasn't your approach. Accordingly, I withdraw my remarks.

To substance:

Certifications for high-tech stuff are a bit hit-and-miss.

If the goal is "to get a job", the degrees or certs are solely to get you into the interview. Whether or not this is right or wrong is a huge question.

If the goal is "prove you learned stuff", then it's very variable. There's many stories of people who have interviewed candidates with degrees or certs that didn't meaningfully know the material. They're both useful to companies as it has a fairly degree of correlation, but no one claims that either is a perfect match.
[The question of correlation when it comes to non-science degrees is a fun debate]

If the goal is "just learn stuff because I want to", then there are many ways to do this, depending on the level of effort. Even today, I don't think there are any inherent barriers to this.


Currently, with high-tech stuff, there are a huge array of certifications. I can go out right now and pay for a 1 week training course on Java, and take the official Java test and get certified. Whether the added certification has any value above "gets you a first round callback for a phone interview" is unclear.

Certifications are in that weird stage where I perceive them as "almost the same but not quite".
More tangibly, there is some difference in terms of "G.E.D" vs. "graduated from high school",
at least in terms of side knowledge or social knowledge. Does that same perception factor in between "degree" and "buncha certs"? Is that why college is worth so much? I dunno.
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From:misterpengo
Date:August 18th, 2008 07:28 am (UTC)
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Re: courtesy, no problem. I've just grown tired of standard internet arguments, and besides, the only people posting here should be people who I can be mutually respectful with. And I'm sure that's the case between us.

I'm sure an interview will always be necessary for any hire, regardless of what they bring to the table as far as certs or track records go. Not just to verify their capabilities, but their personality too. Some people just aren't a fit for a certain company and the like, I'm sure.

As for learning things solo, I think there's a cultural/social barrier. People are stuck in this mode where, if you want to learn some ('Truly' learn it), you pay a university for the privilege. And I'm not sure how much of this is due to a teacher really helping, and how much is due to people associating learning with 'something you need a teacher for'.

And I'm not saying certs are where they need to be, or where I'd like them to be. I offered the concept up as a goal, a direction I hope the world moves in. Yes, this is only a small part of my problem with universities and school systems in general, but it's a pertinent one.

As for side/social knowledge, that's where things get dicey for me. I don't buy people's concerns are always 'Well, your child should know how to interact with peers', because there's other and likely better ways to handle that. That's a whole other topic though, and one where my suspicions start to ramp up.
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