Tuesday, April 17, 2012

30 Years of Irony

Flipping through the comments in a story on innovations in higher education, I found an ironic statement. The article itself calls out how the need for change is met with resistance. It mentions the idea of disruptive technology from Christensen and Eyring, whose book The Innovative University I've had sitting on my desk for months. Various initiatives of the education world are also mentioned, including open courseware, MITx, TED-Ed, and Khan Academy. President Obama's call, in his state of the union address, for universities to figure things out before he starts cutting their budgets is also there.

There is a little bit of a discussion in the comments about whether degrees are worth anything if they come from for-profits, who unfortunately are among the few doing real innovative work, but I'll save that discussion for another time.

The irony in this comment just struck me for some reason. I know a lot of people use the word irony wrong, so maybe someone let me know if it's not as ironic as I think it is.
Higher ed has convinced the private sector (and legislators) that a college degree is necessary to succeed in any (all?) job when that's simply not the case. Right now, I'm doing the same accounting work with an employer-required Masters degree that I did 30 years ago with no college education whatsoever. Students that can't afford and don't need a degree can't get jobs that shouldn't required one. Over-educated graduates are filling the entry-level positions that used to go to bright people right out of high school.
I agree with the notion that degree creep can be problematic. The information technology field seems a little less prone to disqualify someone based on their lack of a degree, but it happens there as well. The commenter was required by an employer to earn a master's degree (probably after being required to earn a bachelor's degree prior to that) to do the same job he or she has been doing for 30 years, originally without a college education.

Let that sink in for a second. This person that is lecturing us on a story about innovation has been doing the same job for 30 years. But let's not stop there. People who shouldn't need a degree can't find jobs, because all the entry-level positions are filled by over-educated graduates. Would, perhaps, this commenter, by his or her own admission be one of these over-educated graduates plugging up an entry-level job for the past 30 years? If it's really been the same job for that long, and it was obtained without a college degree initially, it sounds like it was an entry-level one. After 30 years of work and earning a master's, if you haven't moved up in the company at all, it may be time to look inward. Or maybe you just really enjoy entry-level accounting jobs.