21 May 2013

Is A Bachelor's Degree Worth It? -- Summary of Positions

Summary of Position -- "Yes, it's worth it" 

From a philosophical standpoint, those who back the idea of access to universities tend to believe that education is something we all benefit from, and that the current age presents the greatest opportunity for all of humanity to advance its understandings. Knowledge is an ever-growing human resource, the pursuit of which has long been revered in Western cultures as a virtue.

One could say that the philosophy of people in this crowd would lean more towards an idealist viewpoint. Many people who adopt these views tend to lean liberal socially and politically.

Summary of Position -- "No, it's not"

By contrast, those that tend to argue that sending everyone to a university and trying to get them to graduate isn't worth it tend to take a more realistic approach. While they tend to concede the fact that few would argue that ignorance is better than education, their main view is that we live in a world of options--and trying to approach post-secondary education as a "one size fits all" doesn't benefit the people who are supposed to be benefitting from education.

Most in this camp tend to argue that there are an array of choices available to adult Americans, and that reality proves that a "traditional" university education may not be wholly appropriate for everybody. Many people who adopt these views tend to lean somewhat conservative economically and leaning moderate socially and politically.

Our Philosophy -- "To an extent, yes…" 

Having been through college ourselves, we tend to take a middle-of-the-road approach that can be thought of as a hybrid between the two. Specifically, we argue that in an ideal world, everyone can follow their dreams and gain as much education/schooling as they need or desire. As a result, all of mankind can and should benefit from people studying our world and innovating ways to improve the human experience. This is something that is worth striving for as each and every human has dignity and an impact on the rest of humanity.

However, we must also be realistic. We recognise that college isn't for everybody. Moreover, the job market is anaemic and finding stable employment that pays well is more difficult. Further, it is now clear that getting a bachelor's degree is simply not enough to guarantee a middle-class life; the mere fact of having a degree doesn't have the same currency that it had even 10 years ago. Some major fields of study produce a lot of graduates that end up competing for precious few job openings in those fields, and perhaps taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt might not have been the most prudent option when one is faced with a "cutthroat" job market.

In addition, we believe there is a difference between being well-educated and well-schooled. Ideally, people should try to be both. Alas, we have seen people who are well-educated but don't have the degree (i.e. skilled tradesmen, apprentices, and journeymen) as well as people who've got the bachelor's degree but appear to be incompetent (i.e. people who hold bachelor's degrees and yet are seemingly unable to write without egregious mistakes or make change for various denominations of currency). Simply put, we do not believe that a bachelor's degree in and of itself confers intelligence but merely suggests that one has had opportunities and has made efforts to become more educated.

Nor is intelligence something that must necessarily be learned in a classroom. Education and the pursuits of wisdom and knowledge are indeed lifelong journeys, but they also are by no means constrained to a university classroom or lab. As has been said many times over, "there are some things that just cannot be learned from cracking open a book."

It's one thing to learn a concept and master it from a theoretical perspective, but another to demonstrate mastery in application of that concept. Yet in this age we firmly believe that both are critical to success.

Political Spin

The issues surrounding higher education itself have often found themselves politically charged. With respect to the debate surrounding "do we have too many bachelor's degrees," we are not convinced that it is easy to lay down partisan labels to each side; we would say that doing so results in a fundamentally inchoate attempt to even begin to understand the issue at hand.

As an example, a lot of the people in the "let's send everyone off to college" camp tend to be socially/politically liberal and thus tend to support the Democratic Party's educational planks. Yet this isn't to say that by extension, conservatives and libertarians (who tend to associate with the Republican and Libertarian Parties) are against higher-education or take the "no" side in this little debate.

However, it is worth noting that many Democratic candidates tend to support aid to universities and increases in student aid while some of the rather outspoken Republicans (notably former Sen. Rick Santorum) have argued that universities are little more than "liberal/Marxist/Communist/atheist indoctrination camps." Other candidates from either side of the aisle tend to take a more muted approach. Take that as you will.

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