Undergraduate degrees are a stamp of participation

Here’s an article I wrote for my college newspaper ( = designed for a different audience). I’m mostly interested in the direction college “worthwhileness” is going alongside more opportunities for starting small businesses, entrepreneurship, etc.

Getting a degree is a stamp that says you participated in the established educational conduct. Wisdom, implementation and experience can all be achieved elsewhere. The worst misuse of this stamp is when administrations arbitrarily select it as their sole judgment of criterion, namely, other teaching facilities.

I’m interested in opinions and disagreements anyone might posit – particularly from any professors or postgraduate writers.

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5 thoughts on “Undergraduate degrees are a stamp of participation

  1. It depends on one’s major. An engineering degree is taken as a sign of mastery of some basics of math, physics, and their application to engineering problems. A social science degree is often little more than a signal that the graduate has persevered long enough to get the degree.

    I have taught both engineering and economics.

    • Degrees do often carry the symbolism of mastery; the point I was really trying to elucidate is that a college education isn’t nearly the only method for achieving such mastery, and thus hiring only based on degree is an ignorant selection process. The college degree only conclusively represents an attempt at mastery within the status quo educational path.

  2. I don’t disagree. The signalling value of a Bachelor’s degree has certainly gone down as the number of people with one has increased. As others note there are a few exceptions, but these tend to be in technical sciences.

    • True, and no doubt college makes the technical sciences far easier to comprehend, with discussion and whatnot. However, what I wanted to say is that college isn’t necessary for developing those skill sets, and subsequently shouldn’t be necessary as a qualifier for jobs.

  3. College degrees, as some of the other commenters have noted, connote various things depending on what they are awarded for. Engineering degrees require actual competence in engineering, say, but the dubious standards of creative writing really only say you paid the money and went through the steps to be recognized as a graduate from X institution.

    What I have found from my (albeit limited) experience in the job market is that many jobs, even entry-level ones, require a college degree no matter what it is. Very few places will extend an offer to a person if he doesn’t have one, regardless of competence. So it seems that, insofar as it functions as a social signal, the college degree functions less as a status symbol and more as a barrier to keep the riff raff out. The riff raff being people who do not participate in the system, go through the Cursus Honorum, whatever.

Please keep it civil (unless it relates to Jacques)

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