Sunday, 21 March 2021

Education III

In my last two posts on this topic I mentioned some of the problems associated with higher education. Universities have become big business where teaching is often viewed as a vehicle for making money. And therefore, teaching is performed as cheaply as possible and there is little motivation for maintaining an up to date syllabus. Too many students attend higher education, and colleges are well aware of high drop out rates especially amongst those who performed poorly at high school. To support the 'big business model' of undergraduate and post-graduate teaching, colleges give false hopes of high employment rates, in traditional graduate professions. Figures  are massaged to promote an unrealistic appreciation of employment prospects. A student graduating in gender studies is qualified for what? I contend that they are fit only for teaching gender studies and bugger all else.

Colleges are also misleading when they state that over a work lifetime, graduates will earn substantially more than non-graduates. Whilst this may have been true 45 years ago, this statistic is no longer viable. When tuition fees are factored in together with lost earnings over a four year period, or even longer, the economic argument appears less attractive. This is particularly true when compared with 'blue collar', skilled trades such as electricians. A shortage of skilled workers makes the roles of plumbers, electricians and builders, highly attractive in terms of pay. Therefore, trade apprenticeships are of considerable merit. During training you get paid and the college education, often day release, is funded by the employer. And I'm sure an electrician is eminently more  useful to society, than a liberal farts graduate.  

I'm not advocating that everyone is better off skipping college years. Of course, if  you are considering a vocational profession, such as a doctor or lawyer, higher education is mandatory. Likewise, if you are interested in perusing a life of academic research then college is for you- assuming that you are endowed with the necessary academic wherewithal. Similarly, perusing STEM studies is usually a good option, as long as you manage to graduate. 

Society has pushed the program that to 'get on in life' a college degree is essential. This perspective is also promulgated by governments who are fervent promoters of higher ed. Also, well meaning parents have their role to play in chanting the education mantra. Undoubtedly, 'boomer' parents benefited from the wider availability of  a college education in the post-war years, however, as previously mentioned, only 5% of the population took advantage of this societal windfall. When half the population takes a bite from the ' educational apple' then don't be surprised if the maggot of despond raises its half eaten head (steady, Flaxen). When everyone is a graduate; when everyone is the same, how is the individual to stand out from the crowd. One way to step forward is to engage in post-graduate studies. Thus, debt is compounded (?compound interest) and the reward in terms of career promotion is, often, not forthcoming. 

As an aside, nay digression, the drone effect, that is, everyone is the same, is often apparent on prospective employee's CVs and resumes. As an employer, how is it possible to choose, when everyone is: 'a team player'; 'highly motivated' and 'able to think outside the box'. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the candidate, actually 'thought outside the box', and placed an original thought on paper. If I see, 'another hackneyed cliché, such as, 'proactive',  I swear I will burn, or at least lightly singe, an orphan child. Enough ranting, for now.

So what is the solution? Because you have an interest in philosophy doesn't warrant spending the next four years learning about Descartes and Plato. You could satisfy your curiosity by utilising free online resources, or by attending the local night school/community college, or equivalent. The question that needs to be asked, is: how will this degree help in obtaining worthwhile employment commensurate with my education? We all have interests, but don't expect employers to pay good money for your hobbies. Not everyone is academically inclined, and even those who are intellectually gifted might want to consider a different career, apart from higher education, as preparation for the modern workforce.  

Although I have eked out a sound career as a biologist, I suspect if I had my time again I would have chosen a different  pathway. It has often been said, that if a biologist was good at maths he would be a physicist. Actually my mathematics ability was very sound. I elected to take an intermediate calculus course in the first year of  university and passed with flying colours. This was the same course undertaken by engineering and physics majors. With hindsight I should have taken a physics degree. Although physics was not my first love (that was Cindy Macintosh), I suspect my options and career prospects would have multiplied ten fold and my coffers would have been overflowing with gelt.

So the above is my final thoughts on the education process. I would ask my readership what they think of the whole 'higher education circus'. Would you do things differently if given the opportunity to begin again? Would you have drunken deep from the chalice that is higher education, or would you have been content to quaff but small drafts of academic wisdom or mayhap eschew the expensive 'fruits' contained in the flagon of scholarship altogether? Or maybe Flaxen has finally teetered into the abyss that is frank insanity and would profit from an increase in his medication, especially the green and red capsules? Let me know in the comments.   



  1. My school magazine used to run adverts from Barclays for 16-year-old leavers. The opportunities I missed!

  2. I did well out of my education, but I could have traded study time from 6th form on, for more social skills. I'd still have done as well in life with a lesser degree from a lesser university.

    1. Folk with talent tend to do well regardless.