I believe there needs to be a massive overhaul in the way that the Western World perceives the importance of academia and who we consider as intellectuals. Far too often I see a pattern in the media, on the internet and in personal conversation where we discredit those without a college degree or an acronym after their name. The reason we do that has some historical importance.
In 1950, about 7.3% of men and 5.2% of women completed 4 years of college or more. The university system was extremely exclusive, it was very difficult to be accepted into and even complete. You were typically of a wealthy class or of the brightest minds to stay within academia. During this time period, there was a clear working class and the growth of the business class was not as prevalent. In the United States, many of our grand parents worked in manufacturing or other low skill / repetitive work. The brightest minds were likely in academia and there were very few of them in relativity.
With exclusivity, you can understand how we viewed their importance. Someone that was a professor with a PhD would have likely spent their entire career thinking and teaching, unlike the common person because that was the shape of their economy.
Overtime, technological improvements warranted more fields of study and the US economy shifted more into manufacturing automation while growing the business and management class. By 1980, the men and women that were completing 4 years of college nearly tripled. This is not necessarily a bad thing however our view of academia and intellectuals had not changed. The Boomer generation started to see the financial potential from college education and that became the push for their children to follow in the coming years.
If we fast forward to today, over 35% of men and women in the US Population have completed at least 4 years of college but our view on academia and intellectualism has not changed since the 1950’s. We are not questioning the importance of a college degree like we should and we still hold the same viewpoints for someone that has participated in academia is of the elite intelligent class. We still hold the same rate of legitimacy for anyone that has a non-medical PhD and we don’t question where they even received such a degree or what field of study for such a degree. Do we really think that an Bachelor’s Degree from Princeton University is the same as an Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Phoenix?
We don’t question these so called intellectuals because all that matters is that they participated in the modern academia racket.
We have to be honest about the reality of higher education today. Students are seen as customers and you are paying for your degree more than you are earning your degree. College has shifted away from being an institution of challenging thought and more of an institution of conformity. Your ability to earn a degree is less about intelligence and more about fortitude. We have substituted quality of education with level of education.
With the growth of access to higher learning, that means that there is a growth in the amount of professors that are employed and we don’t question their qualifications like we should. We don’t even question why some students are being taught by adjunct-professors, which is likely someone with a Master’s Degree, essentially 6 years of higher learning education.
The massive growth in higher learning has devalued the level of education that people are receiving, it has devalued the degree that they earn, it has created an industry of lowered standards for teaching in higher education and it has diluted the job market with disillusioned young people that learned how to take instructions instead of thinking for themselves.
We all know the stories of companies that are looking for clerical work but they want someone with a Master’s Degree. Why? Because an Associates and Bachelor’s are becoming more worthless by the year that passes. It’s very simple, scarcity increases value and abundance decreases value. If everyone has a million dollar Ferrari, that Ferrari won’t be worth a million dollars very long because it is no longer rare. When over 35% of men and women every year complete a 4 year degree program, that drives down the value of their degree while their cost of the degree increases every year due to interest rates on their colossal school loans.
Academia is not the same as it was decades ago. Our standards are lower for acceptance to receive an education, our standards are lower for teachers within universities and the people that are masquerading as intellectuals are the products of fortitude and not level of intelligence. If you have the money or you are fine with large amounts of debt, then you can have a nice piece of paper too.
There are obviously fields of study that require a college degree, without a doubt. However, many young people are pushed into colleges and they have no idea what they want to participate in. Many of these same people would experience success by jumping straight into the workforce, attending trade schools or even taking time off in between High School and College so they can situate which direction they want to head in. I am an example of the teenager that overlooked college to attend a trade school and now I work the same job as those with a degree but without the debt.
We need to be more cognoscente about taking academics at their word just because they sat in a classroom longer than the rest of us. We need to question where they were allegedly educated at rather than that they appear to be educated. We need to question the value of higher education for our children. We call it an investment but if that’s the case, then it’s a terrible investment for many of them. Would you give someone $80,000 in hopes that they can start a business without a business plan? So why are we signing our children up to acquire such a debt without any sort of assurance of success?