Empire of Illusion Ch. 3: Slouching Towards the Ivies

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar John Henry says:

    Don’t have much to add, but nicely done post, Rufus.Report

  2. A famous passage from The Intellectual Life by Sertillanges:

    “Have you two hours a day? Can you undertake to keep them jealously, to use them ardently, and then, being of those who have authority in the Kingdom of God, can you drink the chalice of which these pages would wish to make you savor the exquisite and bitter taste? If so, have confidence. Nay, rest in quiet certainty.

    “If you are compelled to earn your living, at least you will earn it without sacrificing, as so many do, the liberty of your soul. If you are alone, you will but be more violently thrown back on your noble purposes. Most great man followed some calling. Many have declared that the two hours I postulate suffice for an intellectual career. Learn to make the best use of that limited time; plunge every day of your life into the spring which quenches and yet ever renews your thirst.”

    What do you think, Rufus? Can an intellectual career be had in fourteen hours a week?Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’ve seen a million arguments about what a college degree actually does for a person.

    The one that makes the most sense to me is that it is a signal. Someone who finishes a college degree is likely to be able to be trained in white-collar work.

    That’s it.

    The problem with “signals” is that once everybody knows that they are signals, they sort of lose their signal value.

    McMegan has a post up recently about employers using credit checks to help weed out employees… and, I reckon, part of the reason to do that is because the signal sent by a college degree has been made much more useless in recent years than it had been in the past. Indeed, I have friends in management at other companies who tell me something to the effect of “I’d rather have someone who has 4 years of being an assistant manager at McDonald’s or Pizza Hut than yet another BA in English/Communications/Psychology.”

    I wonder how much of the devaluation of the college degree (and, by extension, the university) has been demolished by the evaporation of the manufacturing base in the US.

    Once upon a time, you only needed a college degree to help you become a white collar worker and it was considered a waste of time for anyone else… as the blue/pink collar jobs disappeared, the white collar jobs were the only ones left… thus mandating that people who, once, would have become blue collar workers now go to college to get the pre-reqs for a white collar job that they’re likely not particularly suited for…

    The universities, in turn, love it when people show up with money in their hands and are more than happy to explain how college degrees translate into money in your pocket, education is an investment, it doesn’t matter if it’s a degree in English/Communications/Psychology…

    We’re in a bubble. Hrm.Report

    • Avatar gregiank says:

      @Jaybird, I’ve heard that argument before. If you narrow it down to strictly how a degree leads to job then that is a fair assessment. I know i actually learned, you know, stuff and how to do things in college. I think most people do. But hiring is hard and most people aren’t very good at it, so they want a number or a check list to take the place of their own inability to screen out people or that it is really hard to figure out who will do a job well.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        @gregiank, hey, I got (of all things) a degree in *PHILOSOPHY* (with a minor in Religious Studies).

        You want a fun degree to defend in the IT field? It’s that one.

        I understand that a degree, ideally, points you in a direction and teaches you not only how to do a job in your field but how to research your field and continue your growth in your field so you can keep up with advancements.

        I’ve been blessed to work with folks who have used their degrees to do just that.

        However, in IT, I’ve also been blessed to work with folks who have a high school diploma and are self-taught for Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, Windows, Networking, Security, and so on and so forth. They aren’t “educated” as much as “certified”.

        I’ve also been blessed to work with folks in the military who have not been “educated” as much as “trained”.

        If I were a manager in charge of an IT department, I’d hire folks from the latter two tracks *LONG* before I’d hire from the first one.Report