Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Credential Inflation(學位不值錢啦)

Have you ever gone to any on-line job site for a job search? If so, you ought to be familiar with the technical terms such as master of science is required but Ph.D is preferred, or MBA is essential. Then you look at the corresponding job title, you see "technical manager".

Hmmm, you need a higher education so you know how to yell at people technically?

A while back I read an article in the Wall Street Journals, it was about the decisions most of the surveyed CEOs made. The result was stunning: in average more than 80% of CEO's work related decisions are emotionally driven.

Emotionally driven!!!!!

So, please reason with me how getting a higher education can help you make better emotional decisions? If a higher education is irrelevant to the job performance, why do we see all the education credential attached to the job description? Something fishy is going on, don't you think?

We were told to pursue higher educations so we can fulfill our potential. Yes and yes. All things being equal, we would learn many essential technical tools in schools so once we are certified, i.e. a degree to prove our credibility as suitable operators, we could contribute handsomely to this society. Unfortunately, how this society functions is not so simple. As a matter of fact, most of the skills in the cutting edge industries are acquired on the job or through the experiences rather than from the previous academic trainings. Let's face it, the materials we learn in school are well defined, with clear causality. While in the real world, the problems we tackle are rarely defined. What enables you to solve the real-world issue is not your academic credential, it's your on-the-job experience, your character, and your initiative.

That being said, how would you choose a potential employee if you were a hiring manager? All things being equal, wouldn't a kid with a master's degree more attractive than a kid with a bachelor's degree in the same field? It would depend on the circumstances. Nowadays the process to get a master's degree is pretty much taking 30 academic credits, i.e. roughly 10 courses, then you would be elevated above BS. Would those 10 courses make all the differentials above those BS workers who, instead of spending hours working on the graduate school homework, actually solve real-world issues?

The answer is NO.

The advancement of individual's knowledge and skills is through the initiative and the motivation to improve, rather than through the well-constructed academic setting. You don't have to sit in the classroom or working on your homework assignment to register critical information into your brain. You can learn advanced subjects by utilizing your spare time, reading and studying. The discipline required for such a task is the very same discipline you were taught when you were in the elementary school. It's your own action dictates your ability. Your credential doesn't dictate your ability. What credential provides is a superficial way to prove one's credibility, and unfortunately more often than not it fails to measure one's true ability.

Decades ago, the criteria for a management position was a high school's diploma. Then it got bumped up to a bachelor's degree. Then it got bumped up to MBA. Somehow as our society gets more technically sophisticated, the requirement for a managerial position is also getting sophisticated. As if you don't have an MBA you would be hopeless in managing a small group of people. Yeah, stick that to Abraham Lincoln, who only had 18-month worth of formal education training (mostly self-educated) and yet became one of the great presidents in US history. MBA? please take a backseat.

Many jobs, that could be adequately done by people who have high school training in the past, now require a minimum of bachelor's degree. The question is, why are we seeing such a credential inflation in this society? Has our school system gone backward so that kids don't learn nearly as much in the grad schools then they have to go to college to complete their basic knowledge? or simply that there is a huge interest from both the academia and the government loan/grant special lobbyists who want to increase the demand of their services by promoting the concept of "higher education"? Let's face it, not all kids like math and science. Some people are just not good at it. You shovel it down their throats and brainwash them about the inadequacy of their existence if they fail to complete the college, in the meantime ruthlessly charge them a hefty interest on their college school loans. Sooner or later, the reality sets in then they realize that employers don't necessarily pay college graduates top dollars for their ability to recite what they were taught in the college classroom. Because of the elevation of the education standard, the criteria for the workforce standard follow the elevation. I've seen local state college engineering graduates packing grocery, John Hopkins U biology graduate working as a sales clerk in the department store, and etc. They signify what's wrong with our higher education culture: the credential inflation has rendered our college education irrelevant.

I'm not against higher educations. It's quite noble to explore a new realm of knowledge outside your ordinary routine setting. What I'm against is to oversell higher education then be subject to the inevitable credential inflation, which conveniently turns us into credential snobs, no less.

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