My fellow Americans,
Let me tell you a tale.
A friend of mine was recently laid off.
He’s a hardworking kind of guy, so he decided to forgo the customary process of sitting around his house complaining on Facebook that no employers are knocking on his door to compliment his pajamas and offer him six figures to do some Really Important Job. Instead, in a unique and risky strategy, he hit the pavement, actively and aggressively searching for something else. Anything else. “Anything is more lucrative than nothing,” he reasoned, because apparently he doesn’t realize that, these days, nothing can be quite the profitable career.
He told me that he found a couple of openings for management positions at some local retail outlets. A perfect fit, he thought. He has years of experience in retail. He’s managed teams before. He’s younger than me but has over a decade of full time work experience under his belt. Not only that — he’s determined, organized, motivated, intelligent, and reliable. He has all of the requisite qualities and even a bunch of extra qualities that are extremely rare among management types (see: ‘reliable,’ ‘intelligent’).
But he was passed over. Twice.
Twice he’s settled for having his résumé “kept on file” while someone else got the job. And twice the person who got the job was the person who brought less relevant work experience to the table, but had up their sleeve one thing my friend lacks: an expensive piece of paper called a “college degree.”
If you’re not familiar with it, a college degree is a thing that we tell our kids to buy with money they don’t have, in hopes that it will help them make money they might earn, which will give them the ability to pay back the money they spent in order to make the money they’re paying it back with.
This piece of paper is very important.
It’s almost as important as teaching our children how to be fiscally responsible.
So the shocking twist at the end of my friend’s story isn’t that surprising to most of us. It’s a story that’s been repeated time and time again, all over the country, for decades.
Now, is there any conceivable reason why you need an additional four years of formal education to effectively oversee a team of iPad salesmen?
Can anyone seriously argue that spending 48 months on a college campus better prepares you for a retail environment than spending 7 years in a retail environment?
If, through some very bizarre set of circumstances, your life depended on finding someone who could function effectively at any particular job, would you place your fate in the hands of a guy who frequently read about the job over someone who’s been too busy successfully doing it?
Moreover, if we look at the great leaders of human history (something you can do even without a college degree, thanks to inventions such as Google and libraries) can you build a convincing case that leadership qualities are more often learned in academic buildings than developed out in the wilderness of the real world?
Is a college degree actually a necessary ingredient for success in the vast majority of professions?
No, no, no, no, and definitely not.
It’s not a need. Most tasks in life only require someone with the skill, competency, and desire to complete them, not the academic credentials to write papers about them.
“Here is what the position entails. If you can’t do any of this, we will pay you to stay home and compose thoroughly researched essays on the subject.” — No interviewer I’ve ever encountered.
Most jobs are learned by doing.
Most talents are honed through action.
I have another friend in the opposite situation. He graduated from a good university and now has a high paying job (that he hates, by the way) where he sits at a desk and enters numbers into a computer. He could not have gotten this job without his educational credentials, but he will be the first to tell you that his degree is in no way, shape, or form actually necessary to perform his daily duties. All he really needs are fingers and a high tolerance for mundane tasks. The college degree is irrelevant. Or should be.
Sure, there are some fields — astrophysicist, surgeon, engineer, Pope, etc. — that must undoubtedly necessitate further education, but these are in the minority. In the predominance of cases, the best man for the job is the man who can do the job, and the best way to know if a man can do the job is by seeing if he’s ever done the job, or some kind of job in any way similar to it.
Yet, still, proponents and propagators of our modern attitude towards higher education will point out that college graduates from any major earn a better income than the average person without a degree. Actually needed or not, they say, it makes no difference. It’s needed according to the rules of the game, and we all have to play the game even if nobody knows why we’re playing it.
Companies want to see that college degree. Sensible or completely and totally insane, it doesn’t matter. Eventually elementary school janitors will need a doctorate in Vomit Cleanup. That’s just the way it is, we’re told.
Outside of a few specific professions, your ability to succeed in the vast majority of occupational fields should not depend on your liberal arts degree. Should not. But it does, because that’s how it is. Why is it this way? Because. Just because.
Throughout the past several decades, our country has developed a system. That system, I’m informed, requires virtually every 18-year-old to purchase a 70 thousand dollar education and spend four years playing beer pong in their friend’s off campus apartment, before entering the working world without any practical experience doing anything productive or valuable. We give out massive loans to kids who don’t have jobs, let alone financial assets of any kind, and celebrate while millions of young people begin their adult lives drowning in a river of booze and debt.
Worse, people get degrees and increasingly discover that they can’t find a job to pay for the degree, so they summarily return to school to get another degree, hoping more debt will help in their quest to pay off their debt. If any normal company scammed their customers the way colleges do, they’d be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission.
And while we continually fortify and reinforce the artificial societal construct that requires a PhD in psychology to work in the HR department at Target, the Internet has opened up a world of information and knowledge to everyone.
Education, in the end, should be pursued for its own sake. We learn because we want to know, and knowledge is beautiful even if it isn’t ‘used.’ Now more than ever, a person can learn anything and acquire any knowledge without spending a dime or sitting for one minute in a college classroom. This is the miraculous reality of modern times. The potential for a person to educate him or herself is limitless — but we think knowledge must be strictly confined behind the walls of an official institution or it doesn’t count.
The point is, college should be more irrelevant than ever. Should be. But instead the fake ‘need’ for a degree becomes ever inflated, to the extent that you now ‘need’ a Master’s to get gigs that pay about what you could make running a full time lemonade stand (although, in fairness, you’d first have to take courses in Lemon Flavored Beverage Sales for 12 years).
All of this, and I’ve said nothing of the horrible, brain cell killing, maturity stunting, hedonistic culture on most college campuses. Aristotle said that education should be designed to make us virtuous. It seems that modern higher education is specifically aimed at doing the opposite, which often makes college worse than pointless.
But, alas, this is just the way things work. Sure, yeah, the whole system is broken and confused and harmful, but what can we really do about it?
Well, I’ll tell you what we can do about it.
Don’t go to college.
Don’t encourage your kids to go to college.
OK, if you want to operate on brains or design bridges or do repairs on the International Space Station or enter some other profession that actually (actually — not artificially, not superficially) requires more time in school, then by all means go roll the dice on that six figure loan. It’s a risk, but a calculated and purposeful one
Everyone else: don’t play the game. Boycott college.
If you know what you want to do, go do it. Maybe you should look into a trade school first, or maybe you should just dive in.
If you don’t know what you want to do, get a job doing something until you figure it out. Only a reckless person would spend money on an expensive college education when they haven’t the faintest clue what they’ll even do with it.
You learn what you are meant to do by doing things.
So go do things.
These companies only require degrees because they’re too lazy to put a bit of discernment and creativity into the hiring process. “Must have a bachelor’s degree” is shorthand for “must not challenge us to use a little judgment when considering applicants.” It’s ridiculous and sloppy to toss a thousand resumes into the shredder based on an arbitrary and idiotic educational qualification that has no bearing on the position itself. Employers get away with it because most people mindlessly follow the script.
Go off script and force these people to do their jobs.
If enough people stop buying into this idea that college is a necessary step for literally every human being in the country, then eventually the job market will catch on. And universities will realize they have to work harder to attract students, which means they’ll be forced to stop gouging teenagers out of 80 grand while offering a product that can’t possibly justify the expense. And public schools will have no choice but to stop funneling all of their students down the college pipeline, which might lead to more kids studying subjects that interest them rather than subjects that look good on a college application.
Please understand this: college will not become cheaper, employers will not stop erecting irrelevant barriers to entry, schools will not stop pushing kids in one direction regardless of their unique skills and abilities, and nothing else will get better with any of this until we stop participating in the charade.
We are truly a society of impotent and hopeless sheep if we continue to bankrupt ourselves and our children on a massively overpriced college education just because “it’s what people do.”
It’s only what people do because people do it.
Stop doing it.
College is not fundamentally necessary for most people. It is not inherently worthwhile in most cases. Maybe one day, when it’s 97 percent cheaper and you can easily take classes while working a job and building a functional resume for a legitimate career, it might make real sense for the majority of kids in the country. But not now. Not when, for millions of people, it requires tens of thousand of dollars they don’t have, and it entirely consumes the first four years of their adult lives. That is, until it dumps them off into their mid-twenties devoid of basic experiences doing simple adult things like paying the electric bill and worrying about taxes and forgetting to water the houseplants.
Free your children.
Make your own life.
Teach your kids to live differently, uniquely, individually.
College is not necessary for most of us.
I think it’s time we stop pretending otherwise.
Now go forth and spread the word.