Worth of College Education-Debate


The debate intro [transcript]:

So going to high school and not college doubles your chance of being unemployed. In a rapidly changing global economy, many of the traditionally high-paid jobs in manufacturing that high school graduates could get are gone forever. And employers are looking for the kind of cognitive skills that we normally associate with college graduates. And turning from material considerations, a liberal arts education is likely to produce a superior electorate, a more vital civil society, a citizenry with better understanding of American ideals and better ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

So what is the counter argument?

It is that only a small percentage of high school graduates actually have the aptitudes to do well with colleges of reasonable quality. The majority of those enrolling in college lack the basic skills and aptitudes to take pleasure in the experience or otherwise to succeed. For such students, college becomes an extended adolescence and at best a remediation for inadequate high schools. But not a grounding of the essentials of cultural intelligence and such basic skills as expository writing or quantitative reasoning or scientific method or primary research. Might not such students get more from vocationally oriented education of the sort they would likely receive in such successful economies as Germany and Switzerland?
In those countries, by the way, only about 20 percent or so complete four-year degree programs compared with double that figure in the U.S. And for the students at the very top of the scale, at the most elite colleges, might college prove an impediment to creative thinking or a distraction from their entrepreneurial drive? What lessons might we take from the extraordinary contributions of such college dropouts as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison and Steve Jobs?..

The team arguing in support of that motion, Peter Thiel and Charles Murray, are arguing that college can be a drag, a waste of time for the very talented and for much of the rest of the students who are pursuing BAs, they are pursuing what has been described as a worthless document, the Bachelor of Arts degree, meaningless document, the Bachelor of Arts degree. The team on the other side that include Henry Bienen and Vivek Wadhwa are arguing that, number one, going to college is part of the American dream, that those who go to college do better financially and otherwise than those who do not. And from a competitive point of view, we will be falling behind the rest of the world if we accept the notion that we need to limit, in some way, the numbers of people going to college. I want to put a question to the side that’s arguing for the motion and take on that American dream question. And Peter Thiel, I think Henry Bienen used the term, we do grow up with the notion – I think you’ve acknowledged it that in fact you felt straight-jacketed by it, that you do go to college because you’re supposed to go to college.
intelligencesquaredus.org/index. … o-college/


Pan, this might be better placed in the SS forum - please let me know if it is ok to move it there?

You have my permission to move it, yes.

Any excuse to talk to me SIATD huh? …sweet :wink:

You still haven’t moved the thread.



I remember a class where the teacher walked in to the room, sat on his desk and said, “Ask me anything you want about the topic.” No hands went up, so he closed the class, and walked out. I was paying my own way through, so I complained to the staff. It turned out the teacher in question was the head of the entire department. I got the impression I was the first person to ever submit a complaint of this nature, the staff seemed baffled by it.

How about a one to two year post high school degree focused exclusively on self employment skills? That would serve a lot of people who aren’t intellectually or big organization oriented. I see college as sort of the farm team for the corporate gulag. More kids need to learn that they can make a good living as free people, their own boss, without a college degree.

Why not start that in high school? Why not turn the English department in to a web development company, so that the students can get real life experience, and make actual money to enhance the school? Think of the web site a never ending stream of free labor could create, over the years it would grow to become a serious enterprise, a real source of new funding.

I once floated this idea in more detail on three different forums for educators. To a person, they went absolutely wild with hysterical objections. Intellectual constipation runs rampant in our education system I’m afraid.

…and you’re not Pandora :unamused:

…or is there something you ain’t telling us :wink:

That’s a great prof. I wish I took that class. Actually, I had couple of cool profs who’s classes I enjoyed.
So why didn’t you ask a question?

The practical skills required to get a job or learn to run a business are a part of schooling. But the greater part of education is teaching people how to think, how to learn and how to adapt to a changing world.

I’m okay with it, Magsj. Next time, feel free to move my threads as you see appropriate. If I’ll have an issue with it I’ll let you know, otherwise, I don’t particularly care.

Magsj was being polite.

I am seeing colleges more and more as money-making institutions now rather than education or prep centers.

In regards to the argument that colleges provide important social networks, the debate forgot to mention that many students (especially in public colleges) have to go to school AND work, so they don’t really have much time to socialize on campus (participate in student groups and activities, etc.). Some students have parents who help them out and can concentrate solely on school and social activities, but many are burdened by the responsibilities that they carry both in school and home/work environment to be involved in forming social networks.
Many students don’t have time for that.

I would quite like to be Pandora, it is a very good name.

That if someone wants to make you the face of a huge project and thus make you lots of money, you don’t necessarily need a college degree?

The very notion that Bill Gates is an entrepreneur is absurd. Entrepreneurs engage in competitive markets and win out by being better, faster, smarter or more efficient than their competitors. William ‘kill the brown babies’ Gates III has done no such thing.

In summary, I think college/university education is a complete waste of time and money. If you want to be a real piece of shit and make seriously big money then you don’t need it. If you don’t want to be a piece of shit and just want to make a living doing/making something useful for other people, you don’t need it. If you want to learn something then just start learning it - the cost of an internet connection is a lot cheaper than any degree.

My philosophy degree was the biggest waste of money of anything in my life.

I can’t recommend anyone going to school. It basically promotes non-thinking.

The role of the “university” has changed much since Oxford University was first established. Now, careerism is lurking everywhere in university curriculum. What was once an institution that unified all the subjects, and helped prepare students to reach up, is now seen as an institution that sows the seeds for a small job in a narrow field. I’m not quite certain if the goal of the university education is to produce well-rounded individuals anymore. This was a big debate in the 19th century where the man of practical affairs, of industry and science, would negate the classical education, given by the traditional university, which included all the best things ever said or written-- from Plato and Euclid to Shakespeare and Newton.

I know others that scorn the value of the university stamp. Once they graduated they were left high and dry, without a job in sight. It’s a chilling thought to be left out to dry like that after having paid 50K.These universities need to put together better fail-safes and re-establish the connection they once had between employers and graduates.

A university education in many professions does nothing more than give you entry into that profession–it’s the knock on a door that opens. Once in, you’re on your own.

In some professions, you’re obsolete before you graduate, since science and technology changes so quickly. Higher education is career-oriented and has been since apprenticeships stopped and since developing the mind–becoming a learned man, with no thought of a career as a symbol of class status–went out the door along with the horse and buggy. In the US, imo, the current push for a college or university education started when WWII ended. Men came back to a female dominated (in many ways) manufacturing economy–both men and women had seen and done more that any other generation had, until then.

You really only need higher education if your career aspirations mean you have to get your foot in the door–and only then in certain professions.

Frankly, I have to disagree with a number of your premises, most obviously that reading Plato and Shakespeare somehow produces well rounded individuals. It produces a patriarchal elite, which is exactly what it was built to do. It was a prep school for psychopaths and wannabe Napoleons. Oxford is perhaps the finest training school for dictators the world has ever seen.

However, when mass education became a priority in the 19th century, i.e. when the state overtook the church, and people needed to be taught to read so they could read the state’s propaganda, the role of universities changed. I agree about the timing, disagree about the reasons. Universities then became the finishing schools for middle management, in particular they became production lines for school teachers. Even today that’s still one of their major functions. As such, the purpose was not to train people in knowing anything at all, but in being able to get other people to accept what they are being told. It became, in essence, a rhetorical endeavor. It is no coincidence that all these billions spent on research through universities produces very little except slightly more efficient social control mechanisms, whether it be through pharma or digital methods.

They need to be abolished in their current form. Part of the reason the fees are so high is because they are subsidised by the debt machine. It is a classic economic bubble - if people can borrow large sums of money to pay for something then the people selling it will happily put their prices up. Particularly if they are in league, formally or informally, with the people lending the money. The liberals say ‘no, you can’t abolish student loans because then the proverbial genius black kid can’t get to university and rise to the top of our society and validate our meritocratic mythology’ but in reality it would be the best thing. It would open up the market for post-school education so that learning actually became about acquiring useful knowledge and skills.

The last thing we need to do is to make universities even more commodified. I’d rather scrap them all together.

Use it to go to law school. That’s what I’m doing with mine. Starting August 28th. Someday, with a little perseverance, ill be able to screw people over for a living, and have a better understanding of just how far I can push the world. I can’t wait. Plus it would be awesome to pay off my roughly 60k in loans. Thankfully, I won’t need any for the next degree.

That’s an option I guess.

I use this guy to learn computing languages for my job/personal development.


Another option might be to use the skills you gained in your education to launch a public campaign against your education.

You know, take the universities head on, spit in their faces, make a name for yourself, kick up a fuss, become the nationally known spokesman for all those sold worthless degrees. Very timely! Seriously, a huge number of people are being ripped off, and there’s a career there for you if you have the balls to grab the opportunity.

And if you fail to make the argument convincingly, well, that will prove your point. You can’t lose.

Hello Good Sir,

I can’t say that I share all your views on this matter, but you definitely have some insights I haven’t thought about! There definitely have always been problems with universities, but their goals, for the most part I believe, have been to elevate individuals. Am I wrong? Napoleon didn’t go to Oxford. However, Oscar Wilde did, along with John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Hobbes, Percy Shelley, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, William Drayton (an american revolutionary), Lewis Carol, Erasmus–the line goes on and on. Patriarchal elites might have been favored in past centuries, for good reason—traditions that helped hold society together. However, my birth and American rearing might prove to show that the type of elitism one ought to want is where everyone is to become elite. The relevant state “propaganda”, you so mentioned, I will get from Thomas Jefferson, a graduate from the College of William and Mary:

Convinced that the people are the only safe depositories of they own liberty, and that they are no safe unless enlightened to a certain degree, I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.

Thomas Jefferson, along with legions of others, would want us to be aware of universal principles. Here he is stating that, in order to defend these principles, a free people ought to be prepared: They ought to know of these principle; where they came from; and finally, why we’ve adopted them. These principles, they believe, would have been right even if they lost the revolutionary war. In that case, they would still have remained in waiting for others to rediscover a lost path. In certain respects, we are a safe, and our knowledge is the key to safe-guarding our liberty and the state from degeneration. Knowledge helps us guard against sophistical speeches and lies from politicians; there is something dangerous with rolling with the punches. We ought to have deep resentment when our leaders lie to us because it takes away our very freedom, I mean that quite literally!
The self-education of a man may show greater promise than any ignoramus. However, a solitary education limits the opportunities for coming into contact with other great ideas and perspectives. It’s when one rubs against an opposing view that one really starts to understand their own ideas. Nevertheless, I know individuals that are more than apt without a degree. Another person hinted at the internet as a source of a better education, but I would argue against that, too. The problem of selection and correction, on the internet, is a disaster. Quantity of information far exceeds quality. Can you recommend some good quality sites for me? :slight_smile:
Out of all the things to accuse Shakespeare of, patriarchal elitism is a strange one. Nor can I imagine how Euclid’s would be considered so. The best things ever said or written have endured to this day, and get added upon continually. Throwing them out, by putting a narrow stamp on such great works as merely enforcing patriarchal elitism, is going farther than I would ever want to go. Are there no classics you enjoy? Are there no classics that have had an influencing effect something you love? The books I speak about though are mostly dead white guys, and that does color the cultural paradigm of their time. I recognize your point, but there is more to Plato than just patriarchal elitism, isn’t there? :-k

As for the student loan bubble, I believe you to be right,there is one. What do you mean by the term “post-school education”? It sounds interesting. Can you elaborate on if this has anything to do with getting a job or preparation for anything else, besides the acquisition of knowledge. Thanks! :slight_smile: