Can someone explain to me this trend of people, especially in my personal experience, a lot of White folks and privileged Asian people from both sides of the political spectrum, who distain higher education, grad school, etc, outside of a the financial perspective? I can’t help but sense more dumbing down of Americans here, and this country can’t afford to be anymore fucking spoiled and stupid people. I am not the first one to feel that this advice incredibly dangerous to give to vulnerable groups.
It seriously makes no sense to an Asian person, me, who is kind of rough around the edges. You can’t learn everything in school, but there’s plenty of experience you can’t get elsewhere too. Part of the reason why I did it was for most people of color, we can’t walk in a room and expect to be taken seriously. This is a real thing. As an Asian, it’s almost expected to be extra educated. Way worse for other people of color by the way. I still get a lot more benefit of the doubt for being a light-skinned East Asian and can ‘talk white’.
For a lot of lower and middle-class White people too, it might also be one of the few tickets for upwards mobility (not to mention coming in contact with people of color in an intellectual setting designed to mix people together as well. There’s only a certain class of White people (and Asians for that matter) who can hustle their way up the socio-economic ladder without the connections of a degree. Surprise! It’s not coal miners from West Virginia. The Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerbergs of the world are overwhelming from well-off resourced families. Drop-out provision does not apply to Debbie at Wal-Mart greeting people in a rural town.
To me, higher ed isn’t a certification so you can get X job. It’s to teach you how to think from multiple perspectives. As someone who was very much raised and influenced by classic Chinese thought (德之不脩，學之不講，聞義不能徙，不善不能改，是吾憂也。), I look at education as the cultivation of self. Also, growing up in an Asian neighborhood and then going to what was than a UC that still had more of a working-class culture at the time, I was surrounded by other scions of refugee families who more or less had this mantra, “People can take away your wealth, your home, the clothes off your back, but no one can take away your education.” This is what happened to them. Their intellect and will is what helped people rebuild their lives.
Yes, education is too costly. The social contract of education is inherently broken for that reason. People now expect it to be an ROI-driven proposition – I was totally like this to a strong extent at USC, but I also excelled in my coursework and outside of it. I never expected because I had that piece of paper with the name attached to me that it would get me something. The work I did, my intellectual capacity, and what I brought to the table that was useful to the places I wanted to work was what got me the job, and a lot of the work and intellectual capacity was developed at USC. I really like how Philip Guo wrote about it.
I don’t know why people do expect a job because of a degree. I am speaking as someone who is on a hiring committee and has interviewed well over two dozen people this year. It does get a lot of people through the door though, but by no means is a guarantee.
Note: Education isn’t just happening in school for the cultivation of self and creating better citizens to function in a complex world. You can’t just be a marxist bookworm and be unable to apply your skills in the real world. I’m playing looking at you Phd students in a basement expanding human knowledge but am also very worried about your financial future.
School is one of the few places where people from different backgrounds, both in the traditional senses as well as the professional and intellectual sense, can come together to build wisdom for sake of it. Nothing else. Wisdom and intellect is what makes you the money from education. It also powers people to more fulfilling lives.
So why the hate? I feel like there’s something about it beyond anger that people are ill-prepared for the job market or the staggering burden of student debt that I sense. Aside from those valid points, what else?
(Full Disclosure: I got told over and over again not to go to grad school. I walked out with not only a much better paygrade but a much more fulfilling work-life situation. So I’m biased as hell and maybe just defending – though I’ll say the key was combining my practical experience from working with deep learning from education. But I’m way more alarmed by the lack of intellectual capacity in this country to interpret data, and bemoan what I perceive as the disrespect given to education by people who should ostensibly know better.)