College Degrees have Become Meaningless

By   |  June 7, 2008

College, as we know it in modern times, has become worthless. The idea of a university refers to Latin universitas, pioneered especially by Plato, describing a corporation of students interacting within an atmosphere that fosters genius, creates culture, and balances scientific research with artistic inquiry, among other things. The American university, however, as the modern template of higher education, has sucked out the passion and honesty needed to inspire such an environment.

Plato once advised, “Do not train children to learn by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” Such advice has been echoed throughout history by thinkers like Maria Montessori who strongly believed that teaching children involved encouraging them to ask questions, solve problems, and self-correct themselves in an applied manner. She emphasized the balanced individual who was conscious of family, health, and interaction while gaining a sense of competence and progress.

The atmosphere in which we now attempt to develop ourselves as intellectuals consists of a politically-correct, subdivided, unengaged, multiple-choice, black and white, never-below-the-surface education system that is overly sensitive to multiculturalism, free of strong opinions, and washed over with cement and handicap-accessible ramps. Part of this change most definitely lies in the fact that universities almost always used to be privately owned and controlled, were inspired by national identity and regional dialogues, and were generally made up of a small, privileged group of people.

This, of course, brings us to the fact that nearly everyone these days is pursuing higher education when the opportunity arises. And like everything else that becomes trendy and mass-produced, the unique qualities that once existed in the university setting have now merged with generally accepted international notions and approaches; that is, the university has become a consumer-oriented market that seems like little more than a stomping ground for the media and corporate world, free of originality, as it subconsciously becomes the biggest spoon in the great soup of globalization.

Albert Einstein, perhaps one of the last mystical figures in the modern intellectual world, seemed to describe our current situation best when he said, “Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing.”

I couldn’t agree more. I can’t tell you how sick I am of walking into my new classes each quarter and having the only questions raised on the part of students involving something about grading scales, due dates, and other obsessive intricacies. The saddest part, however, is that our university professors are the ones instigating such an empty atmosphere, let alone the university system in general. I’m sure with enough money students might find a private university around somewhere that still encourages discussions, and raw honesty, and perhaps the pursuit of creative knowledge and fascination with life, but frankly, it simply seems to be a sign of the times more than anything else.

Bachelor degrees have become nothing more than a social status, a ticket to ride. Like a wise man from the UCI Humanities Dept. once told me, some degrees are like a California driver’s license: you can’t get by without one, but if you have one, no one gives a shit. And that, my friends, is the Catch-22, because no one would believe you saying a college degree was worthless unless you already had one under your belt.

I’m sure it has something to do with the culture that says art no longer needs to involve beauty; science is incompatible with religion; songs can’t be more than three and a half minutes long; and chatting is something you do on the internet behind a firewall because, well, you just never know. That same culture might be shocked to hear Galileo come forth and say, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use.”

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11 Comments on “College Degrees have Become Meaningless”  (RSS)

  1. It is useless in the since it is hiring people who are doing what they are told. Look at Steve Jobes he was a college drop out. True innovation does not come from college these days. Companies are hiring basic skill jobs with a bachelors. So you need a fancy paper to answer phones and do customer service. Getting high paying Job is a gamble.

  2. I came across this article while searching for options regarding financial aid. Irony? I call it divine precedence. You’re letting yourselves become mired in the pitfalls of the financial requirements and rewards of higher education. Take it from me, a 25 year old high school drop out. You’re missing the main point of this article. It’s the experiences gained and the goals fulfilled that make college worth it. The way society works today dulls the appeal of taking advantage of what’s really available. After all, when you only have 20 minutes and three pages of a resume to prove your worth to a potential employer who will most definitely make or break your future, who has time to care? So I guess I see both sides..

  3. Welcome to the American Dream, the problem with the American dream is that theirs involves fucking you over with a sizable debt, while you slowly realize your hopes and dreams were nothing more than a pretty song and dance.

    Sure, some people gain by doing the hoop-jumping, but as the cost of tuition soars out of sight, so drops the value of education. More and more people are skipping college and pursuing their own individual paths, and that ladies and gentlemen is what REAL education is all about.

  4. I’m surprised there aren’t more comments here, and this has been dead for a year already – but I’ll state that I am in complete accord with the intellectuals above myself. I am with you all the way. I am torn between returning to the hoop-jump for a golden ticket to a better-than-baseline job, and holding to my ethical principles. Noam Chomsky has heavily influenced my opinions with regards to education – both secondary and post-secondary. I no longer believe it serves the interest of the intellectual /financially/. Liberal arts, especially, is a pyramid scheme. I am probably the most well educated individual of my entire high school graduating class, but I have acquired only an A.A., while most of my former peers have achieved at the least a bachelors.

    It is true – you pass through the filters and keep your mouth shut, and eventually, you’ll probably end up in a decent-paying position with some job security. But it’s never going to be like you dreamed.

    The world is run by corporate interest and a small group of elite, well-off individuals. This is a fact that can not be denied. And it is obvious that money is no longer a motivating factor enough to justify capitalism in its current incarnation.

  5. This has to be one of the most fantastic plainly written articles I’ve read in years. Society, and the world to an extent, has become centered around the love of money as in the old addage that money is the root of all evil, yet at the same time, money makes the world go round. What’s even worse about that is that our money (the U.S. dollar, at least) is worth less than the paper it’s printed on. But I’m not going to go into that because that’d deviate too far from the topic of this piece. In essence, in this world, if you’re born into money (unless you develop something so freaking world changing like the Google guys or Bill Gates), you’re going to have a good life, because you can be dumber than a bag of rocks, barely capable of breathing and standing at the same time, and still come out in the end with a PhD because mummy and daddy donated shit loads to your college of choice, all the while being sued multiple times for malpractice ’cause you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, yet people born without money with genius IQs or a drive to succeed or just the will to learn (like myself and many, many others) are forced to go without because the rich kids buy out the spots in colleges without earning them or because the tuition fees are too expensive; people like that are forced to scrape by more often than not working for minimum wage well into their 30s-40s because they don’t have that meaningless piece of paper that says they have such and such skills (most of which you will either never ever use unless you go into a specialized field or can be learned in the real world). Such a thing leaves me utterly depressed for the future of society where all I can see is a world controlled by the rich who walk all over the poor without a second thought.

  6. Try finding a good paying job with a college degree it is useless. I know, I graduated with a degree in Computer Science 8 years ago, I’ve have spent half of that time Looking for work.

  7. Try finding a good paying job without a college degree and then tell me whether it’s useless or not.

  8. The problem with many colleges is that there are many intelligent people out there who simply cannot afford to go and therefore lose out whilst some of those who can afford to go are scraping past and getting their qualifications and really don’t deserve them, also the sad fact is, is that mummy or daddy are rich and buy something for the college, you know that their money has also bought their child a virtually guarantteed pass regardless of how useless the kid is. A further problem is that many students are cheating by buying ready to use term papers, etc, thereby negating the whole point of the system in the first place. Unfortunately this has been going on for a very long time and there is no end in sight, it’s a pity that people can’t get into college simply on theirintelligence rather than money or ability to cheat or how well they can play a sport. I have seen many disturbing things as regards the legitamacy of the higher education system, but try to raise it as an issue and watch how fast you get shut down, especially if the one who you’re pointing out has a daddy that is about to buy a building for the college.

  9. Yeah that’s an interesting addition to the whole thing — the competitive edge increases but the level of information exchange goes down, so true. Everyone just keeps pumping thru the system cuz society says they must prove themselves, but in fact no one is contributing to a mutually beneficial environment! Mass education = rinse and repeat…

  10. I agree. I was actually taking to a friend about this the other day. We were discussing how subjects like bio are so competitive because everyone wants to get into med school and become a doctor, especially when you get into the upper division classes. People don’t help each other quite as much. Its is a sad thing when students feel the need to keep comments to themselves, because they think that they might be giving someone the advantage over them. It contradicts the very establishment of an university. The mass numbers of people wanting the same job has made the free flow of ideas almost impossible.

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