December 1, 2011

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: The Dwindling Power Of A College Degree. “Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from nonelite schools. A bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability. To get a good job, you have to have some special skill — charm, by the way, counts — that employers value. But there’s also a pretty good chance that by some point in the next few years, your boss will find that some new technology or some worker overseas can replace you.”

Of course, one reason why a bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that a bachelor’s degree has gotten much easier to get, as part of a conscious strategy of giving everyone the markers of intelligence and capability. Remember Reynolds’ Law:

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

It bears repeating. Meanwhile, on my earlier posts about vocational training reader Bob Crosley writes:

Can’t talk about promoting vocational training and skilled trades without talking about Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe and his web site to promote vocational work.

Also, check out this YouTube video of a speech he made talking about working with your hands and vocational work.

And the book “Shop Class as Soul Craft” is about leaving the corporate world behind and the unique satisfaction you can get from working with your hands.

It’s a great book. As he says when he went from running a think tank to repairing motorcycles: “In the corporate world, everyone second guesses what you do. But a motorcycle either runs, or doesn’t run. You either fixed it, or you didn’t.”

It’s a bit of a passion of mine, and I work hard to make sure my sons grow up respecting those that work with their hands.

Yeah. To be fair, my grandpa was happy to get out of the service station where he started as a teenager and become an oil company exec, which he did in spite of barely having a high-school diploma. But he never looked down on the people who worked with their hands. Somehow, as Jay Leno points out, we got a different attitude somewhere.