TED Conversations

Megan DaGata

SQS, Materials Management, Fluor Corporation

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Why is it all about the college degree?

We know that people are becoming more educated. Why is it that companies are still focusing on the college degree? More and more people have them but barely passed their classes. While there are lots of people like me who were smart enough not to get caught in the web of debt that do not have them.

I didn't want to get stuck $30,000 in debt because I got a degree in a subject that is no longer important. I made that choice, but the opportunities that were once available to someone in my shoes are no longer there. Now, all of those opportunities are going to someone with a degree.15 years of profession work experience or not.

What do you think the degree actually shows to the company?


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  • Feb 16 2012: Anytime 'everyone is doing it', it is an economic bubble.

    Higher education is the current economic bubble.

    What causes economic bubbles? Ignorance.

    What causes ignorance? Lack of leadership.

    What leaders have failed? The public education system and parents.

    How? By failing to actually EDUCATE our children and by absolving that guilt by forking out tens of thousands of dollars to an institution of 'higher learning.' Parental responsibility is reduced to writing a check and sending Tim off for the 'college experience'. The higher education bubble is the newest symptom arising from the Baby Boomers's aversion to parenting.

    It then becomes a self-sustaining phenomena: Tim is sent to college and is told you can only be what you want if you get this degree. He gets a job and moves up and is now in charge of hiring. Who does Tim hire? The college grad, because, hey, you can't get where you want to go without a college degree and Tim can't continue to move up without ambitious young employees trying to go.

    I think you probably made a good choice in betting on your own abilities/ambition rather than overpaying for a degree.

    FYI: Peter Schiff told me that if he was young, he would take out every student loan imaginable at 1.5% and invest every dime in something OTHER THAN HIS EDUCATION. That should tell you something (other than Peter Schiff is a sneaky bastard).

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      Feb 16 2012: You blame ignorance on a lack of leadership? So people should have leaders to teach them how to do things? People have no responsibility to teach themselves? If you aren't educating yourself, you're screwed.

      I agree with your position on the bubble; education is one of many bubbles. Medical is another one.
      • Feb 16 2012: "You blame ignorance on a lack of leadership?"


        "So people should have leaders to teach them how to do things?"


        "People have no responsibility to teach themselves?"

        Of course people have a responsibility to teach themselves, and they often do. Unfortunately, knowledge requires either a. a teacher or b. experience. I am of the opinion that when it comes to making a decision such as investing in higher education, it is preferable to learn from a mentor (parent or teacher) rather than from experience (being saddled with enormous debt with or without the degree). I am not absolving the individual from his or her inherent responsibility to his or her self, just acknowledging that parents and teachers have neglected their responsibility to him or her.

        "Medical is another one."


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          Feb 16 2012: And who teaches the leaders? Ignorance is perpetuated by ignorant leaders. Just look at Washington...

          But then those ignorant leaders are elected by an ignorant people...

          Now add the variable of education, we will soon have a highly educated group of ignorant people hiring/electing highly educated ignorant leaders.

          I don't think education is the answer to ignorance.
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          Feb 16 2012: In answer to your responses:


          It seems to me that blaming ignorance on leadership is a practice called scapegoating; it is a logical fallacy and an avoiding of personal responsibility.


          So, then, you want training and not education if you want some "leader" to show you the way. We are discussing two different processes and two different types of people: (1) the educator and (2) the propagandist. It seems to me that you are asking for a propagandist.

          Your final answer:

          I suggest you familiarize yourself with epistemology. Knowledge does not require a teacher; empiricism offers one example of how knowledge does not require a teacher as the knowledge manifests through observation. One can be taught to improve ones powers of observation, but this is not requisite to success in applying these powers.

          I agree that it is often preferable to learn from a mentor, but when you have a poor selection of people to choose from then you need to go on your own. In case you haven't noticed, we live in one of the worst educated nations in the developed world. How much longer do you want to remain in the clutches of the ignorati?

          In response to Linda Taylor:

          You make some good points. The idea is that by educating everyone we would not have enough ignorant people to elect ignorant leaders. But, I am worried that position is similar to the position of ever fanatical religious movement I've ever read about... So, we can take it too far.

          Bottom line: education affords socioeconomic status. If you want people to value you, then invest in yourself and show that you have value. If you don't, don't be surprised when nobody cares.
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        Feb 16 2012: @ Reilus
        Honestly, I think education affords socioeconomic status only if you leverage it to do so. For instance, the professoriate is one of the most underpaid, overeducated positions anyone can find themselves in. Most professors make way LESS than in the private sector. Why would anyone do this? They are opting for a lower socioeconomic status.

        Many people in the private sector live in a higher socioeconomic strata with less education (and in the case of people like Paris Hilton, none at all). The whole educational value - socioeconomic thing is tenuous at best. More likely it is a line we have been fed.

        And at the end of the day, people do not care anyway. I invest in education because I like it and I want it. My ego is not so fragile to worry if anybody values me or not.
      • Feb 19 2012: Oh Relius,

        "I suggest you familiarize yourself with epistemology... Empiricism offers one example of how knowledge does not require a teacher."

        Thank you for the good-natured suggestion, but I believe your entire paragraph can be summarized as 'experience' which I conveniently listed as the second way to knowledge. QUOTE: "a. a teacher or b. experience".

        Interestingly, the thesaurus lists 'experientialism' as a synonym for 'empiricism', and Merriam-Webster defines it as 'a theory that all knowledge originates in experience.' Perhaps it is not I that needs to familiarize myself with epistemology, but you that needs to read what it written rather than jumping to pat yourself on the back for knowing a tenth grade vocabulary word.

        As to your suggestion that parents and school teachers preparing kids for what is the first and one of the most important decisions of their adult lives constitutes 'propaganda' - I simply disagree, though I would classify the college recruiter as such.

        And in response to your charge of 'scapegoating' - personal responsibility extends to preparing your children for life. That is your responsibility as a parent.


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