When College Isn't Necessary

Over at Forbes, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry examines the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of the fastest-growing jobs in America, then draws some conclusions. After noting that not all fast-growing, high-paying jobs require a college degree, Gobry adds that there are also jobs that

College (artist's rendition)only "require" college because we're very dumb. Very few of those occupations require college in the sense that 90+% of people who pursue that occupation will benefit from having learned about it in college. But my guess would be that more than a few of these occupations "require" college in the sense that employers expect that applicants will have a BA. And this is our problem. A "Diagnostic Medical Sonographer" is a highly-skilled job that doesn't require college training in the sense that you can learn everything you need to do the job in a manner of months. But many colleges offer programs to help you become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. And when you compare unemployment rates for college graduates and non-college graduates, you see why someone might want to go to college to become a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer even if it means taking on huge, unnecessary debt. And once there are enough college graduates who can become Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, you can see why employers would rationally toss out of the pile any resumes that don't have a college degree on them.

This is something that we urgently need to fix, because we're wasting ginormous amounts of money, time, and resources.

Read the rest here. Read Reason's forum on the future of higher education here.

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  • wareagle||

    we have moved from being highly educated, even highly skilled, to being highly credentialed. The political class has done to education what it does to numerous other things that are given a day/week/month/funding - when you make everything seem important, you wind up rendering it meaningless.

  • Pro Libertate||

    In a perfect world, I think education and knowledge are a good thing, even when not directly advancing your career. But with college being so expensive, that's a high price to pay for something you can't use to recoup your costs.

    In my family, back 100+ years ago when they were mostly farmers, few got college degrees, but there was a heavy emphasis on reading and acquiring knowledge. I think we've replaced this kind of virtue with the idea that a few pieces of paper are all that matters.

  • RickC||

    I would add that education and knowledge are not necessarliy connected to the system or needful of such. While I don't discount the importance of high school or college, I'm pretty sure that most of what I would consider real knowledge I learned from my own reading and study.

    I've told a nephew, who took the liberal arts (literature) route through college he (read his parents) would have been better off financially and would have learned about as much if he had just started a book club with a few of his friends. But that wouldn't provide him with credentials of course.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I've learned far more outside of school than I ever learned in it. I was even reading before school.

  • DJK||

    I would have said that was true of me as well, until I embarked upon a BS and then a PhD in the physical sciences. It would have been very difficult to do that via self-study.

  • DJK||

    Note - I don't say impossible. Ed Witten supposedly taught himself all of undergraduate physics in a year. But he's also one of the most brilliant physicists in this generation, so...

  • Pro Libertate||

    It depends on the discipline, of course. And there is some truth that advanced technical programs (or even law school) teach you how to think like a person in your profession. That's a nontrivial skill.

  • DJK||

    Yea. It's actually pretty amazing. I look back on what I knew before starting a PhD versus after. The contrast is stark.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I think engineering is a pretty clear case where college teaches you a lot of useful things; at the very least how to think like an engineer as you said.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also, and I think this is important, you learn at least a little about associated disciplines in your earlier courses. So you don't just focus on the specific area in which you practice, which I think you would tend to do if learning only on the job. So an EE can spot a basic ME issue on his own.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah. Science is also something that is hard to do on your own. You can learn a lot about science and the theory on your own, but you can't really do a lot of science without a university or other large organization with resources backing you up.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Come on, kids are building nuclear bombs all the time. I know, I watch TV.

  • DJK||

    This is definitely true. The BS in physics gave me a ton of theoretical background, without which I would not have been able to do the work I did in grad school. But it was the PhD that really taught me how to work in science and engineering (not just in my subfield - in those disciplines in general).

  • DJK||

    I do wonder, though, whether that PhD was a waste of time. I don't mean that I didn't need it. I just mean that my time would have been better spent doing something similar at a company's research lab. Too bad federal research spending has completely crowded out private money in basic research.

  • ||

    I think engineering is a pretty clear case where college teaches you a lot of useful things; at the very least how to think like an engineer as you said.

    But this could just as easily be done with an apprenticeship program.

    The worst part about the Bachelor's degree is that you are required to take almost two full years of "general education" classes when the bulk of what you need can be done in 2-3 years depending on the major. It racks up additional costs just to elevate it in some way above 2-year degrees and to make a big deal about diversification. And I think the reason that everyone has to have College English and college algebra is because they don't get trained well enough in high school anymore.

    If high school stopped graduating people who are functionally retarded, college would be a lot less expensive for the people who are legitimately prepared for it. Fuck this "one-size-fits-all" education system.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    The worst part about the Bachelor's degree is that you are required to take almost two full years of "general education" classes

    And honestly, most of that is basically just "13th-15th grade" type of learning. I breezed through those courses because they weren't any different than what I had seen in high school--in fact, I recycled quite a bit of my high school homework for those courses.

    I didn't actually start getting anything educationally valuable out of the college experience until I began taking my 300-400 level courses junior year.

  • Loki||

    I didn't actually start getting anything educationally valuable out of the college experience until I began taking my 300-400 level courses junior year.

    Typically 2nd semester of sophomore year in Aerospace Engineering (at least where I went to school) is where the "fun" begins:

    Dynamics
    Fluid Mechanics
    Solid Mechanics
    Thermodynamics
    Differential Equations

    AKA "The Gauntlet." It was the "weed out" semester. Although alot of people were pussies (myself included) and broke it up by delaying a couple of those courses for a semester while taking a couple of required humanities electives. In my case, Solids and Thermo were delayed, replaced with Space Environment and a fluff english elective, IIRC.

  • CE||

    Freshman year Calculus and Physics weeded out plenty of people who were thinking about majoring in Engineering. By the time we started taking the really hard classes as sophomores and juniors, everyone who was still in was pretty good. And senior year classes were easy by comparison, since we had the basic training already.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It would be nice if the basics were actually completed in high school. Then college could focus on advanced education. Like it's supposed to.

  • ||

    It would be nice if the basics were actually completed in high school. Then college could focus on advanced education. Like it's supposed to.

    This exactly. Even having graduated high school in 11th grade in 2004, I could tell how ill prepared most of my classmates were or would be for college. There are so many problems with the education system... yet another reason the private sector should be able to take charge so that individual needs and desires can be catered to.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    when you make everything seem important, you wind up rendering it meaningless.

    Isn't there an iron law about this?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Counselor Dean needs to return to tell us, lest we all forget.

  • ||

    Yeah I was just wonder where he's been. Is he moving right now or something?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Isn't there an iron law about this?

    My version:
    When you try to make everything your first priority, you have no priorities.
    Or as I tell my kids:
    Stuff too much into the first bin, and they just spill out and become zeroes.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Last weekend, there was a largely incoherent NYT story about how college is more important now than ever, because something something something many jobs which in the past did not require a college degree now do.

    Also, a large number college grads are grossly underemployed, but at least they have jobs, so that proves their Suppression Studies degrees were well worth the cost.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This isn't entirely new. When the economy sucks, new graduates can suffer through some pretty tough times. For instance, I had a crappy job as a video store manager with a Finance degree, which was sad.

    Even sadder was the fact that all of my full-time employees (five people) had college degrees. One was a "retired" Columbia University professor and doesn't count, but all of the other ones were around my age. Making shit.

    What's worse now is that the cost of college is incredibly higher, so most kids are dealing with insane debt loads.

  • John||

    College shouldn't be necessary for a lot of things. Law is a good example. There is no reason to have law schools. Kids should hire on to law firms out of high school, start as document clerks and if they have the aptitude and the interest move up to paralegal and then attorney.

    In an ideal world education should be a hybrid between online and self education and on the job training. You go to work at the bottom of a particular business, learn on our own outside of it via online and such and work your way through the rungs.

    But a system like that would do a couple of things beyond just getting rid of the tenured professor as a leisured class. First, we would have to kill the disparate impact test and go back to letting businesses give applicants IQ and aptitude tests. Second, it would kill a whole lot of upper middle class privileged. Starting in the 70s and 80s, if you were upper middle class and went to the right schools, you could skip over the bottom jobs and go right into management. Under my system no more. Instead of spending four years or more playing animal house on mumsy and puppsy's money, kids would have to go to work and actually learn a skill and a business.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I wouldn't go quite that far. I think lawyers should have college degrees, for a variety of reasons. But I don't think law school is necessary. Some of our most brilliant lawyers in our history never went to law school--they apprenticed.

  • John||

    I don't think lawyers need college degrees. What do you learn in college that is useful in law beyond the ability to read and write with precision? That is a trade skill like running a lathe and can be taught on the job.

  • Pro Libertate||

    In theory, sure. In practice, I think you need the extra oomph you get with a decent undergraduate degree.

  • Radioactive||

    please quantify "oomph". what is the unit measure of "oomph"? is it like shit? at least that can be measured by turds...

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I think you have it backwards. Being a lawyer is a trade skill that can be taught on the job. Having a depth of knowledge and being able to reason, isn't. That doesn't mean that college must be involved, but that's a helluva lot more involved than learning the day-to-day bits of lawyering.

    Also, the overwhelming majority of law schools turn out people who can argue The Slaughter-House cases and can't do jack in a real law office.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Law school was little help on the bar exam. I could've taken that without law school at all, just a bar-prep course.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I passed the bar without a bar prep course, but it wouldn't have taken me three years to be able to pass it if the degree weren't required. I got to the test site super early just to eliminate car trouble, wrecks, etc. as issues, so I spent about an hour each morning before the test reading a bar prep book.

    The problem, as I mentioned above, is that passing the bar just means you know a lot of lawyer stuff, it doesn't mean you know how to be a lawyer. IMO, someone with some intelligence and writing ability who apprenticed for three years would kick the stuffing out of someone who spent three years in law school when it came to being a lawyer.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh sure. The exam didn't at all test my aptitude to practice law, and most of what I do in practice I learned on the job.

    Law school isn't useless, and I wouldn't advocate getting rid of it entirely, but it has occurred to me before that two years with an internship/residency type program, à la medical school, might not be a bad idea.

  • robc||

    Making it optional is the way to go.

    Doesnt CA still allow people to pass the bar without a law school degree? Arent they the only state left?

  • DJK||

    Yes. It is possible to pass the CA bar exam without a law school degree. You need something like 5 years of apprenticeship with a lawyer. But then you'd be stuck practicing law in the shithole that is CA...

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think there are still 7-8 that allow "reading the law" as opposed to law school.

  • Virginian||

    Virginia lets you read the law. But you need someone to sponsor you.

    I've considered finding someone to do that, but I would need to finish my bachelor's first.

  • John||

    MO, someone with some intelligence and writing ability who apprenticed for three years would kick the stuffing out of someone who spent three years in law school when it came to being a lawyer.

    Go to any big firm, and the top paralegals know much more about practicing law than any first year associate, no matter what school they went to. Law schools, especially the top ones have become nothing but leftist finishing schools. The value added to the actual practice of law is virtually zero.

  • DJK||

    Is top paralegal versus first year associate a fair comparison? The top paralegals would have decades of experience, whereas the first year associate would have none...

  • John||

    Well the associate has three years of legal training. Yet, that never really translates into much when they go to work.

    whereas the first year associate would have none...

    Is kind of the point. That is very true and it begs the question just what the fuck were thy doing in law school for three years if not learning the practice of law?

  • DJK||

    I think you're underestimating the importance of the theoretical foundations that law school provides. I can provide an example from my experience in the technical world. With just a BS in physics, I was not ready to translate what I'd learned to real world applications. As I progressed through a PhD program, however, I found that those core theoretical skills were invaluable. I can't imagine doing the technical work that I was doing without having an intimate understanding of quantum mechanics.

  • DJK||

    I wonder why, if these first year associates are so worthless, have the senior paralegals not just completely displaced them? There's clearly some factor that's compelling law firms to continue hiring first year associates. So what is it?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's easy--there are profound legal restrictions against employing paralegals as lawyers.

    Law school isn't useless, but it isn't entirely necessary. As I noted above, some of the best legal scholars in our history never set foot in a law school.

  • Rasilio||

    Because paralegals are not allowed to practice law.

  • John||

    I wonder why, if these first year associates are so worthless, have the senior paralegals not just completely displaced them?

    Have you seen the job market for first year associates? That is exactly what is happening. Clients are figuring out that there is no point in paying $300 an hour for work that can be done by paralegals or even in some cases farmed out to India at a third the cost or less. They just are refusing to pay for it.

    The big firm business model is dying. It is totally inefficient. Most work lawyers do can be done more cheaply by non lawyer. There are a few true super star attorneys who clients will pay millions for their services. And that will remain the same. But the rest of the edifice is going to rot away. In 20 years there will not be big firms anymore. There will be smaller firms where the top attorney brings in huge dollars. And there will be in house and contract shops where parlegals and such do the grunt work.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    There's clearly some factor that's compelling law firms to continue hiring first year associates. So what is it?

    The fact that they are different jobs and that just because someone is good with the technical aspects of, say, filing motions and day-to-day administration doesn't mean that person would be a good lawyer.

  • John||

    I think you're underestimating the importance of the theoretical foundations that law school provides.

    I don't think so. Despite what lawyers tell you, law is not physics. It is not that hard. Practicing law is hard. But that is because practicing involves people skills and common sense and the ability to deduce facts. But the law generally is just no that difficult. What is difficult is the facts. And you don't learn how to deduce the facts in law school. The more I practice law the more I look back on law school as a waste of time.

    I never use the information I learned there. To extent that I did learn things, it was so general as to at best provide a basis of knowledge. But once you actually practice in an area you knowledge quickly goes beyond and becomes much more specialized than what you learn in law school.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I think you're underestimating the importance of the theoretical foundations that law school provides.

    Marbury doesn't come up a lot in day-to-day lawyering.

    I think you overestimate the importance of theoretical foundations except, perhaps, for appellate lawyers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    My favorite cases were the early ones, like the one about the right of conquest (Johnson something, I think) and the one about who owns wildlife that escapes on to your property (ferrae naturae?).

  • John||

    I always liked the Supreme Court's earlier funnier cases too.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Indeed.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Hawkins v. McGee, IMO.

  • DJK||

    This is very interesting to me. I'm currently looking at going to law school as a means of advancing my career. Have a technical PhD, passed the patent bar, am working as a patent agent, and thinking about becoming an attorney.

    And don't castigate me for being pro-IP - I believe that there is a consistent libertarian case for it. Even if not, it's impossible to operate outside the purview of the state, so I might as well do something that I enjoy and that pays well. It's so much more interesting to read about science and technology than actually do it.

    So, thoughts? Is law school a waste of time for someone in my position?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm pro-IP, just not at the levels it's at today.

    That aside, if you have any interest in patent law, it's a decent career, and it's nowhere near as oversaturated with new graduates as other practice areas.

  • DJK||

    Fair enough. Patents are out of control. For instance, Bilski v. Kappos is terrible law. I'm still a little disturbed that I agreed with Stevens on that one...That said, it's hard to find many libertarians who don't reflexively take Stephan Kinsella's position on IP.

  • John||

    You are a different case DJK. You have a technical skill. Very few lawyers have the technical knowledge necessary to be a patent lawyer. And although not quite the license to print money it was 15 years ago, it is still a good field.

    In an ideal world, you should be able to just go work for a patent firm and learn how to practice law and use your technical skill. But because of the guild rules you can't do that. You have to go to law school. So law school for you might be the right thing. Just go into as little of debt as you possibly can. Because you have a technical degree and knowledge most JDs don't have, I don't think where you go to school is as important as it usually is. Go to the law school that is accredited and gives you the best financial aid package and then go country your millions doing patent law.

  • Radioactive||

    too many fucking lawyers as it is, and now they'll be self taught? What do you call an unexpected benefit...a bus full of lawyers going off a cliff, what do you call a crying shame...an empty seat on that bus.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    College shouldn't be necessary for a lot of things.

    And can work against you. When I sold my business I kept being told I was overqualified.

  • Jordan||

    Yet another government-created problem, since employment aptitude tests are legally very risky for employers, thanks to Griggs v Duke Power Co.

  • John||

    Yup. A college degree is just a marker telling employers you have a reasonable IQ and enough of a work ethic to get one.

    Thanks to EEO law and that awful case, millions of kids have wasted years of their lives and thousands of dollars getting degrees they shouldn't have had to get.

  • DJF||

    So instead we have a system where HR weeds out people based on whether or not they could stay awake for four years of college. Though it does have the benefit for the employer that many are then so in debt that they will take any job or any amount of money.

  • $park¥||

    And I would say that greater than 50% of the time the HR people who write the job reqs and scan resumes have no idea what the job actually entails.

  • Rasilio||

    My favorites are when they do it with IT positions. I still see variations on the following ALL THE TIME

    "Requires 10 years experience in SQL server 2008"

  • DJK||

    They're just telling you that they will have no openings until 2017.

  • Lord Humungus||

    ha! I ran into that when I first got out of college.

  • UnCivilServant||

    It's an H1-B dodge, so they can claim "No Citizen has the skills we need, and we looked"

  • robc||

    In 1997 I interviewed for a job that required 5 years of JAVA programming experience.

    So, basically, they wanted to hire James Gosling.

  • John||

    And whether they came from a family that had the money and the commitment to send their kid to college. But remember EEO law is to protect the poor and disadvantaged.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Protect them from what? Being able to rise above their station?

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Yeah, I wonder what the reasoning here is.

    A company announces - "the government has informed us that our IQ test has a disparate impact on blacks, hispanics and aleutian islanders, since a disporportionate number of them fail these tests, so we are switching over to requiring all employees to have a college degree.

    REPORTER: "So blacks, hispanics and aleutian islanders have proportional representation among people with college degrees?"

    COMPANY SPOKESMAN: "Why don't you take your damn logic and go f___ yourself? We're trying to achieve social justice here!"

  • Rasilio||

    Oh the problem goes WAY deeper than just aptitude tests.

    Even if I wanted to start up an apprenticeship program I could not just promote the best person on up the ladder, I need to worry about what ratios of protected classes exist at all levels of my organization lest someone accuse us of bias. This also makes it less risky if I look for outside talent rather than promoting from within because everytime a promoted a white male over any sort of minority I would be opening myself to the threat of a lawsuit but if I just leave my existing employees where they are and hire a new boss for them none of them has any grounds to complain.

    All of that ties together into a world that overvalues credentials and denies workers the ability to grow their abilities to the maximum extent.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Fucking government, employment litigation, and HR departments for the win. Forever.

  • John||

    All excellent points, especially the part about promoting from within. It used to be that people would spend their lives in a given industry. If you were a car guy, you went to work for Ford. If you were an airplane guy, you went to work for Boeing or Cessna. Now no one does that because you can't go from the bottom to the top in the same organization. Instead we have fostered a culture where top managers deal in money. They don't know the industries they work in, they are MBAs who understand money. That has done terrible things to corporate culture and efficiency in this country.

  • Lord Humungus||

    my old man started as a frickin' shoe clerk for a major retailer here in Michigan. Within three years he - at the age of 25 - was running one of their big stores. He was a college dropout. Times were definitely different back then - now I can't imagine the same company giving a 25yo that kind of responsibility.

  • John||

    My old man started working on microwave towers for AT&T and ended up a mid level manager. When he started, everyone in the company had started out working on the equipment they used. When he retired, all of the top people had no idea about any of the equipment or engineering involved and had MBAs. They knew how to move money not run a business.

  • Lord Humungus||

    heh - the stories I get from his days in management - it sounds like a big ol' drunken brawl. The guys he worked with all partied hard, all while working 70 hours a week.

  • John||

    My father tells the same stories.

  • John||

    But the funny thing is, back in the days of the three martini lunch and the expense account drinking binge, the US owned the world. Now in the days of sensitivity training not so much.

  • Lord Humungus||

    yep - they got shit down. There was also a strong loyalty to the company.

    When I left my first post-college employer to move on to a new job, my dad was gobsmacked that I would "leave such a great company". I countered uh - 10k raise, better benefits. Hello?

  • Lord Humungus||

    *down = done

  • Raston Bot||

    It was found that White people who had been working at the firm for some time, but met neither of the requirements, performed their jobs as well as those that did meet the requirements.

    So now employment tests will get your ass sued.

    That's totally logical.

  • sarcasmic||

    Thanks to the dumbing down of the public schools, a few years of college is needed just to have the equivalent education that a high school graduate had fifty years ago.

  • DJK||

    I hear this argument all the time. I'm not sure I believe it. At my (public) high school, all students were required to take math through trigonometry, a stats class, biology, chemistry, physics, poli sci, and econ. And a significant number took more advanced classes (e.g. calculus).

    Can anyone point me to studies showing that schools have, in fact, been dumbed down over the years?

  • DJK||

    I guess I should note that I graduated high school in the early '00s.

  • Zeb||

    I don't know if they've been further dumbed down in the 16 years since I was in high school, so I could be wrong, but I wouldn't say that it has been dumbed down since 50 years ago. How many people graduated HS knowing calculus then, for example? Or what you would learn in various AP classes. I think a problem is how focused on college prep it is, though.

    College has definitely been dumbed way down, though.

  • DJK||

    Maybe I just missed out on all the "dumbing down". I did my undergrad work in physics and math and I really hope that hasn't been dumbed down. If so, I never would have gotten through the previous curriculum! :-)

  • DJK||

    That is to say, maybe it's only been dumbed down in fields that I think are dumb to start with?

  • Zeb||

    I'm sure you can still get a solid education in a hard (not difficult hard, but where there are definite facts and right answers) field like math or science. Though even as a math major, I definitely got a few As I didn't deserve. It may be more grade inflation than necessarily dumbing down. If you go to the right school, you can still get as deep into something as you want if you are motivated to work at that level.

  • sarcasmic||

    I dunno. I think of "man on the street" type interviews, and it seems to me that the average Joe of fifty years ago was not a total moron when compared to today.

  • Zeb||

    It's hard to say. Anything like that that you would see from 50 years ago is probably not a very representative sample.

  • sarcasmic||

    Maybe it's not so much that the schools are dumbed down, but instead a case where stupid people are out-breeding smart people.

  • Zeb||

    Or that stupid people are going to school more instead of dropping out in 8th grade and working. Perhaps school is dumbed down for stupid people. It seems like everyone graduated HS if they stick around long enough.

  • DJK||

    Not sure. I impulsively want to agree with this statement. It's certainly true that birth rates are far higher amongst the uneducated than the educated. But then I think about what all those educated people I know actually believe...

  • sarcasmic||

    educated != smart

  • DJK||

    True. But there's at least some correlation.

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    I dated a girl who, when we would argue about things - especially things I knew more about because I took the time to learn about them - would fall back on "I'm educated! I'm smart! Respect my opinions!" She went to a boarding school, then to a very good private school, and then to a t-14 law school. So she was "very educated," and I would also say smart, but she was not well-informed at all.

  • $park¥||

    Anecdote for you: My brother has a bachelor's degree in business administration and has been working as an exterminator for 10 years. I have no degree and have been working as in IT for over 16.

    There may be some jobs where a college education gets you the level of knowledge you need to even attempt. Apprenticeship really seems the way to go for everything else.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Couple this with the educational materials available on the Internet, and college degrees become even less valuable. Khan Academy, anyone?

    By the way, Mr. Khan should hire Shatner to do an ad for him. We all know how it ends.

  • $park¥||

    With Shatner trapped in the bowels of a dying planet, forever?

  • VG Zaytsev||

    With Shatner trapped in the bowels of a dying planet, University

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, excellent.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    By Shatner suddenly remembering the 3rd dimension for the first, and only, time in his life?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Any of the above, provided that he yells "KHAAAN!" three times.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    "You may be. Intelligent. But not. Experienced. Khan Academy can. Fill that gap. For you. With a degree from. Khan Academy. You can make. Full use. Of your. Superior intellect."

  • $park¥||

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Heh.

    "That new TV show: The Next Generation."

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's great. But how do we segue to the "KHAAAN!"? Does it turn out that the Khan Academy is, in fact, run by Khan Noonien Singh, a Mexican-Indian?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Kahn comes in from above, demonstrating that he has now mastered 3 dimensional thinking.

  • $park¥||

    Kahn comes in from above, demonstrating that he has now mastered 3 dimensional thinking.

    Thanks to his training at the Khan Academy.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Yes, sorry, I thought was implied. Perhaps it should be explicit. Or maybe he just needs a Khan Academy Baseball Khap on?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Khan it, Auric! [Laughter from studio audience.]

  • Pro Libertate||

    Too bad Montalbán is no longer with us, because he'd be awesome in Khan Academy ads: "Improve a mechanical device and you may double productivity, but improve man and you gain a thousandfold. Khan Academy--his is the superior. . . ."

  • T||

    Look up MIT's Open Courseware. MIT is giving away their classes. Why do I need to pay them to attend?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Normally I would say for the college aged chicks, but you did specify MIT.

    (Though I did make out with a girl in grad school at MIT about 2 weeks ago).

  • DJK||

    I actually dated a girl who went to MIT as an undergrad. One of the hottest women I've ever met. Total bitch.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    If she was super hot and at MIT that may have been a factor in her developing that bitchy personality.

  • DJK||

    She had previously been at MIT. This was when I was at Berkeley. 10 years in Cambridge and Berkeley...she had that entitled liberal bitch thing going on. I think that was what made here a bitch.

  • DJK||

    Need to find me some good libertarian wimmens. Any suggestions?

  • DJK||

    No responses. As I expected - there are no good libertarian wimmens.

  • Zeb||

    Nicole and Banjos are both already committed, so I think you are out of luck.

  • Rasilio||

    You're gonna have to make them cause there are no libertarian women

  • DJK||

    Rasilio, you make a good point. All the women I've dated for any significantly long period of time have come out of the relationship more libertarian than they started out. But those women were all at least open to hearing the arguments.

    Is it just that men are more controlling of the intellectual narrative? It's easier for us to convince women of our views?

    THIS is why there are no libertarian women!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The point I meant to make was that part of that entitlement may have come from being a hot chick in a girl-deprived environment.

    And if I knew where to find libertarian girls I wouldn't have spent basically my whole life dating liberal chicks.

  • DJK||

    I know what you were getting at. She had her pick of all the, uh, hot guys at MIT?

    But I just can't stand dating people who are so clearly wrong!

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I mean, I still don't understand what makes guys hot, but presumably in a population of thousands of guys, even nerdy ones, there are going to be some pretty hot ones.

  • John||

    IT seems to be a poster child for the needless nature of college. I don't know a single IT guy who has a full four year degree. It is just not how it is done. No one cares about your degrees. They might care about your certifications. But all they really care about is if you can make the system work.

  • $park¥||

    Yes. I've been stuck working with degreed people and it can be infuriating. Many times they know technically how things are supposed to work, but then have no idea how to proceed when things don't go the way they're supposed to.

  • sarcasmic||

    Q: How many software developers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

    A: None. That's a hardware issue.

  • John||

    The best IT people are like the best car mechanics. They are people who love computers and have been messing with them since they were old enough to try. Sitting in a classroom for four years is not the same as spending your life fiddling with a machine. And that is all computers are, machines.

  • $park¥||

    And that is all computers are, machines.

    Don't you dare call them that, they aren't that rational. They are boxes of magic that demand semi-regular blood sacrifices. Like the human brain, nobody knows for sure how or why they work.

  • robc||

    So there was this box with tempermental network, sometimes would work, sometimes wouldnt.

    One day, trying to fix it, one of my partners is pulling out and reseating the network card (which had been done plenty of times before) and in the process, cuts himself on the card and drips blood onto it.

    It worked for years after that without ever causing a problem again.

    Now, the rational part of my brain says that he got the card seated properly in the slot. However, I DEMAND BLOOD seems like a perfectly acceptable explanation too.

  • $park¥||

    Every time I've opened a box for something, without fail I get cut by it. Whether or not they actually need blood to operate, they always take it.

  • UnCivilServant||

    When working with hardware, it's usually a bad sign when no one ends up bleeding.

  • John||

    I always liked in the old comic strip Shoe when the IT guy would show up with a wand dressed like Merlin the Magician.

  • Rasilio||

    You'd be surprised how true this can be sometimes.

    I once had a job testing software modems, there was supposedly a theoretical minimum lag time of 190 milliseconds (not great compared to the ~85 ms that hardware modems of the day were capable of) and one day when testing compatability with various games I found that we could not get our game to work with Mechwarrior (one of the hottest games out at that time) because the lag exceeded the games timeout on the connection. After playing around with it for a few days and configuring the modems to connect as a P2P network rather than a direct connection I got the game to work and was measuring lag times of under 100ms.

    Our engineers were completely confounded by this because it should have taken longer than that for the signal to get through the Digital to Analog converter in the modem and yet somehow it worked.

  • sarcasmic||

    The best IT guy I ever worked with had an art history degree from Colby.

  • Lord Humungus||

    The best programmer I know was working on becoming a Neurologist - he dropped out of the program.

    Seriously smart guy - but a mess.

  • kinnath||

    We farmed out all the IT work to a third party. The call center is overseas, and when you finally get a real person to show up at your desk, it's a pimple-faced, nerd that may not actually be old enough to buy beer yet.

  • Lord Humungus||

    I'm an "IT Guy" with a BS in CS. Completely useless for what I do since I knew programming before I went to college.

    Of course when I started college, it was as a Philosophy major... and then EE. (go figure that out)

  • UnCivilServant||

    I know several.

    The shop I worked in in 2008 had a mix of backgrounds:

    Technical Degree (me)
    Former Mechanic (Years of self-study and on the job IT experience)
    Former Bus Driver (did the routine stuff)
    Math Degree so old it was from before computing degrees existed (Supervisor who would have a tech degree had he been younger)
    Education Degree (responsible for some of the specialist applications)
    Unknown degree of same vintage as supervisor's

    So it is a bit of a mixed bag, but I wouldn't argue the necessity of a degree in IT.

  • robc||

    I know plenty.

    Me for instance, but my degree is entirely different.

    But, I will say, in general, when hiring, if you had a degree but hadnt done anything interesting along the way, you didnt get hired. I didnt care about grades as much as that you enjoyed programming/sys admin/etc work and had done interesting things with it.

    The guy with the 2.3 GPA who spent all his waking hours doing neat shit in a computer lab was the guy you wanted.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Once I realized I'd rather be set on fire than spend the rest of my life working with lawyers, I taught myself to program.

    Yeah, I had a lot of "So, how'd you go from being a lawyer to a programmer" questions in interviews, but about 15 years later I had enough money to retire. I'm pretty sure a lot of my classmates from law school are still paying off loans.

  • Radioactive||

    I'm sure there are people who would be happy to set you on fire even now...

  • kinnath||

    We just need to go back to the medieval master/apprentice system.

  • Pro Libertate||

    There is my proposed indentured servitude revival, which would also solve our immigration problem.

  • kinnath||

    I try to explain to people that the only viable mitigation strategy for the upcoming social security/medicare disaster is to import young, healty workers.

  • Radioactive||

    who can spell...

  • Radioactive||

    what if I want to train as a debater? where would I find a master debater?

  • Rasilio||

    On the internet of course, the internet of full of master debaters

  • Radioactive||

    bah da boom

  • NewWorldDan||

    When I hire software developers, I look for guys without a degree because they're often better and I can usually hire them for $10k less than someone similar with a degree. I'm small business, and I can do that because I don't have a HR department. Most HR departments seem to use the degree as a filter for cover your ass purposes.

  • robc||

    The death of Vocational tracking at the HS level is the big problem.

    Post HS voc ed training is important too.

  • $park¥||

    This too. The city that I live in has a couple Voc high schools which is great. Hardly any of the surrounding towns do.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The high school I went to in rural Vermont in the mid 00s had a class called "Building Trades" which was the most popular at the school. The kids who took that all ended up with a construction job immediately out of school (part of the class involved working part-time with local construction projects).

  • Lord Humungus||

    We had that too - back in the 80s. That's where the "dumb kids" went - to learn auto body repair, mechanical courses, plumbing, electrical work, etc.

    I imagine most of them pull in some serious coin. So much for being dumb.

  • wareagle||

    we had wood shop and metal shop, and my high school was in a university town. Even then, folks understood that college was not the ticket for everyone. That sentiment has changed; we push people to pursue paper that may or may not be valuable, i.e. the credentialed society.

  • Raston Bot||

    Jesse obviously hates art history.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Well, yeah, he's a person.

  • DJK||

    Are you saying art history majors aren't people?

  • Almanian!||

    yes

  • DJK||

    Ha! I'm having trouble channeling my offended liberal.

  • Radioactive||

    your offended liberal is probabaly an art history major

  • John||

    Art history is great. It is a tremendous hobby. It is not a career. Getting a degree in art history is like getting a degree in comic book or stamp collecting.

  • Zeb||

    Fields like that are funny. There is some demand for art history majors: curating art museums, writing books about art history, art history professors and things like that. But there will always be so many more graduates than positions for them that it is doomed to continue to be a punchline.

  • Rasilio||

    Yeah the number of new art history jobs opening every year would not be enough to keep a single professor of art history employed

  • John||

    There is very small demand. In the past such fields were the purview of the idol rich. If you were an idiot son and had no interest or aptitude for the family business, you became a classicist or art curator or something. Those fields don't and never have paid. So only the rich could afford to indulge in them. Now thanks to our higher education insanity, people from humble backgrounds who are unlikely ever to be able to make a living at these fields are being drawn into them.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, that;s the problem. Now the idle non-rich are doing it and that causes problems.
    If someone is really passionate about something like art history, I'm all for them doing it if they can make it work. But nowadays you get too many people who really don't know what they want out of college and just go into fields that seem cool or fun or whatever.

  • Spartacus||

    There's one other important aspect of the credentialing system that I haven't seen mentioned. By requiring a "degree" that has little more benefit than practical training, companies are offloading their training costs onto schools, which really means students. Why take on an untrained apprentice and have to eat the training costs when you can have someone else do it for you? Unfortunately, most schools see this "partnering" as a Good Thing and are only too willing to jump at chances to do it. Probably because they profit as well. The only loser here is the student/trainee.

  • Alice Bowie||

    I saw his list. Perhaps changing bedpans doesn't require a BS after all.

    I look at ability. Academics 95% of the time just means you are either rich, bought into going into debt for that Ivy League degree, or are so smart that you got a scholarship.

    However, I'm never allowed to ask these questions

  • ||

    If I was a parent and going to shell out $100K on my kids education, I'd probably advise him to take the money, invest it and become a plumber or an electrician.

    Low stress job, working for yourself, making really good money and in 40-50 years you can retire comfortably on what was to be your college money.

  • John||

    I had that conversation with a friend of mine. Her daughter is very bright and does well in school. Her father in law is quite wealthy and will gladly write a check for his only grand kid to go to any school she wants to. My friend is already working hard to see that her daughter gets into Harvard. As a full pay and a bright kid, she has a shot.

    But she also could go to the local state school probably for free or close to free. So I asked my friend, why not send her to state school and have her grandfather give her a $250,000 graduation present? My friend didn't see the logic. I think she is nuts.

  • NoVAHockey||

    i'd take the cash. and have a degree and stocks. or a degree and a house.

  • Alice Bowie||

    The Harvard Degree (especially in Finance, Medicine, and Law) will go a longer way than $250K. She may not be that nuts.

    Plus, the people she'll meet in Harvard is what going to Ivy League is really all about.

  • John||

    Those are graduate degrees. Go to the state school, get good grades then take your $250K and use it to pay for your Harvard graduate degree. The difference between a Harvard undergrad and a main campus state school undergrad degree is a lot less than $250K.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Go to the state school, get good grades then take your $250K and use it to pay for your Harvard graduate degree.

    That's essentially what I did, if you replace "take your $250k" with "don't take any loans" and Harvard with Cornell.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I'm not sure that plumbers and electricians make "really good money." On the flip side, those jobs are hard to offshore.

  • Pro Libertate||

    They certainly can. Whether they all do is another story.

    I knew a girl whose dad was quite wealthy (like marble-statuary-in-the-yard wealthy). He was a house painter. Yes, he got his money by running his own business and making it bigger and bigger, but that's what he was.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    So can football players. There's more to it than possibility.

    A senior electrician in Dallas has a median salary of around $60K and a 90% percentile salary of around $75K. Plumbers are lower than that.

    Once you start talking about running your own painting, or electrical, or plumbing empire, you've moved out of the low stress job category.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Of course, they don't have mind-numbing debt to dig out of (usually). And low-stress and work don't usually go together, anyway.

    It's got less upside for most than, say, a law degree, but in practice, so do plenty of careers with undergraduate degrees.

  • robc||

    More plumbers are millionaires that lawyers.*

    No student loans, start career earlier, lower clothing costs, lower auto costs#, lower housing costs#.

    *If I remember Millionaire Next Door correctly. Maybe things have changed since the late 90s though.

    #due to lawyers being expected to live in certain neighborhoods and drive certain cars.

  • robc||

    And from a quick scan, I cant verify that.

    And since Attorneys are #5 if percent who are millionaires, probably not.

    But attorneys are horrible is turning high incomes into high wealth, many just make up for it with really high incomes.

  • Zeb||

    Depends on what you mean by really good money. An independent guy with steady work can make $60-100k pretty easily as an electrician or plumber.

  • John||

    Plumbers and electricians can make big money. The thing is not a lot of people in those fields have business sense. There are a lot of very skilled plumbers, carpenters, electricians and so forth who don't have a lot of ambition or business sense. If you are in those fields and do, you become a contractor and make millions.

  • ||

    Just built my retirement home and acted as the general contractor. Electricians are making upwards of $100 per hour in Great Falls MT.

    I'd call that pretty good money for manual labor.

  • ||

    I should say, the owner is charging $100/hr.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    That's a lot closer. When I was doing contract programming jobs, I usually got about half of what the client was billed for.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Depends on how many hours for which they can get that price, doesn't it? If a random electrician in MT can make $100 per hour for enough hours then, yeah, that's pretty good money. Nothing I was able to find in a relatively limited internet search suggests that such a thing is very common.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    I might be late to the thread, but with all of the computer guys in here I was wondering...

    Is Treehouse catching on at all as a college alternative?

  • KPres||

    One of my great entrepreneurial ideas is a "Skills Testing Center" where you go for maybe a few weeks and have every real world skill imaginable tested and scored, and compiled into a profile. Employers could just go to the center and search for an applicant best matching what they're looking for. A prospective employee (or even one who's currently employed) might then get a phone call from a company they've never heard of with a job offer.

  • Rasilio||

    It might have some value if you could devise effective real world tests that objectively measured ability.

    Otherwise the lesson of the MCSE may come into play.

    That is you'll get a flood of people who get just enough training to pass the test with no real world practical experience backing it up and once companies start realizing that your so called "qualified" candidates really aren't then they'll start hitting your database as a way of ruling out candidates.

  • Sigivald||

    On the other hand, a Bachelor's is a reasonable proxy for "can read and write, do some basic math, and show up more often than not for four or five years".

    So there's that.

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