Now, I understand why a surgeon, psychiatrist, engineer, architect, physicist, and accountant (to name a few) need an educational certificate of some sort. After all, they have someone's wealth, health, or life in their hands. In the case of the physicist, we can say they have Truth itself in their hands.

But what about people in the arts? A poet, painter, graphic artist, composer (music), or french horn player? Why would they need a diploma.

Well, the most obvious answer is "in order to get a job." So one question I have is this: If the person hiring the candidate for a job in the arts knows what he's looking for, should he be examining a diploma or examining the candidate's portfolio, or auditioning him, or doing some other more direct way of determining the candidate's skills and talent?

So, part of the insanity can be traced to incompetent and overly cautious.

I happen to be a photographer who is respected in his field. I'm self-taught. When someone asks me to recommend a school of photography, I tell them not to waste their time. If you want to learn just about any skill, any major city's library will have books teaching you whatever you need.

I know some will say that an education will give the creative student some direction. I find that truly creative people direct themselves. The are by nature idiosyncratic. The only ones who will really benefit from "direction" are the ones destined to be hacks.

You know what's sad? It's the person who gets an MA in something like graphic design or, worse, painting, and does it with student loans. I read recently about a young man who got his MA in painting with $100K+ in student loans. He will probably spend the rest of his life paying that off on an annual income of less than $40K.

Anyway, that's my rant. Do you agree or do you have a counter-rant?

So the question is,

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I have a MS, my brother and sister never completed high school, I have never made as much as either of them!     

I think a college degree assures some kind of standard on which you can rely,it says nothing about the creativity of the person who holds it. 

I don't think our society truly understands what college degrees are for. Sure there are some things you can study that lead directly to jobs like medicine, education, business, architecture and so on. Society typically understands these sorts of degrees. But the point of most college degrees is to stretch your mind (education for education's sake) and research. Both I and my partner have a degree in German Studies, a degree that certainly does not easily lead to a job. My partner is now an accountant for Levi Strauss' German branch. He learned accounting on the job. I am now  Pre-k teacher and am working toward a masters in education so I can get a teacher's license and teach in public schools. Neither I or my partner went to college to get a job, we went for the education and experience. Regardless of how 'useful' my degree is in the real world it was worth it for me in terms of stretching my mental abilities and achieving some life long goals. I don't think college is for everyone. I think college is for people who enjoy learning or who want to do research or who will eventually work at a job like medicine, education or architecture that requires specialized knowledge. I think those who want to gain a skill and make money doing that skill should go a different path. Teach yourself, go to a trade school, got to a community college and so on.

A degree in philosophy will stretch your mind almost for sure, though I'm not sure one can put a monetary value on it in terms of how much of a loan to take out. Is it worth going into deep debt with student loans to learn German in college when you can learn German with Rosetta Stone for a few hundred dollars and some face time spent with some local German students or immigrants who want to better their English? You'll probably learn more natural and colloquial German that way anyway.

If someone really wants to stretch their mind, there's really no need to spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars doing so. In fact, a lot of people who are very goal-oriented take the unrelated required liberal arts courses in a state of justifiable resentment and really pick up very little other than a huge monetary debt. They just study for the test and then in a short while whatever knowledge (or should I say facts) they picked up is largely forgotten.

I want my internist to have a degree. I don't give a sh*t if the computer programmer or interior designer I hire has one as long as they can show me what they have done in the past. That will tell me much more than a diploma, especially with today's very high rates of cheating on college exams.

Personally I'm not deep in debt. Rosetta stone sucks. Learning German in a class full of other interested students with a native (or near native) speaker is much better than a computer program or books. No German speaking partner I've ever had has been able or willing to teach me the nuances of German grammar, pronunciation, idiomatic expressions, history, culture and so on that a person who's spent their life studying all things German can. Plus I spent a year studying, working and living in Germany through my college program and regular in-state tuition. Did I really need to spend $20,000 of my money on all this? Probably not but I'd likely not be where I am and who I am now if I didn't.

I think college educations are Important but I also don't think that people who forgo them aren't necessarily any better or worse than people with them. If I were an employer I'd do my best to look at each person a an individual and see who is the best fit for my company regardless of formal education.

College is overvalued in that everyone is encouraged to go to college regardless of interest/life goals. Not everyone should or even needs to go to college. College educations are undervalued in that most people think that they are a means to get a job and more money. If all you want to do is get a job earn money don't go to college learn a skill and work your butt off be self motivated and you'll probably do as good or better than those who have college educations. If you want education for educations sake. If you want to learn from people who are (more or less depending on where you go) experts in their field. If you want to be involved in research and be exposed to the intellectual academic world then go to college but be smart about how you do it and understand that college doesn't automatically get a you hired and earn you money in the long run.

Agreed with one caveat: I don't think we value science and engineering degrees enough as a society. I'd love to see a cultural revolution embracing the multitude of math and science fields.

I would second that caveat. But sadly, a culmination of laziness and uneducated groups have led to people not really caring about the sciences and instead focusing on the "I just want more cash" argument (even though those degrees tend to earn more, but that's where the laziness comes in).

Laziness extends elsewhere. We have an overabundance of students seeking degrees in the arts (and I say this as someone who LOVES the arts!). A lot of those students would be more useful to society going into more technical and science-related fields. And they'd earn more money, too. If they don't like becoming wealthy, they can always make the world even better by donating to good causes.

And don't tell me arts courses are hard. Everything is relative. I have a strong arts background and believe me while it got hard from time to time, it was nothing like the science and engineering students went through in terms of toughness.

I'm not saying nobody should go into the arts, but I fear many who go into the arts want to get a degree but don't want to work too hard for it. And don't remind me that there are also people who are so talented in terms of their artistic creativity that they belong in the arts. I know that. However, a lot of the output of art students does not exhibit sufficient talent to justify a career, as they will figure out when they graduate and start trying to pay off their student loans.

A truth well-known to business students when I was studying accounting: college students who are studying business (accounting, marketing, etc, etc, etc) can get advanced degrees and still seek employment with companies begun by ambitious high school dropouts.

An intellectual apprenticeship vs a school of life apprenticeship. Can't we respect both?

I know I do.

In short, yes. Society needs intellectual skills and practical skills and both need to be valued, but sadly engineers, for instance, are terribly undervalued in society, as the semi-skilled who care for the elderly and disabled.

I do think in many countries university and degrees has ceased to be about learning and is now just a money making machine. It is now forcing whole new generations into what amounts to servitude as people struggle to pay of massively disproportionate debts and society as a whole will suffer for this in the years to come. Governments always know that the biggest threat to "order" will always come not from the poorest but from the middle classes, so I rather suspect the drive to increase education costs and therefore the overall debt burden is being used as a tool to ensure that threat is mitigated to some degree.

I have a nursing degree and a midwifery degree, both of which I took while working (army). I would never have considered taking them any other way. Here in The Netherlands higher education does not incur the crushing costs of the USA or UK, but they can still be too much. I do also think that too many things can be taken as degrees now. Nursing for instance I do not believe needs to be a degree, the best nurses I know are the best for their empathy and practical common sense not their academic skills.

Nina van der Roos.


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