General Question

Blondesjon's avatar

Are college educations, by and large, a waste of time?

Asked by Blondesjon (33979points) July 10th, 2009

Don’t get me wrong. I want my doctor to be fully learned in the healing arts and my pharmaceuticals to be made by competent chemists. I’d would like to thank those of you that use your diploma to make a difference every day. Please don’t get your collective panties in a bunch.

What I’m talking about, is the parade of politicians, corporate executives, psychoanalysts, and talking media heads that not only use their diplomas to justify the inane bullshit that they spout, but cite them as the reason they “Know Best”.

As I have said before, George W. Bush has an MBA from Harvard and a BA from Yale.

What a waste of a tree.

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43 Answers

filmfann's avatar

I don’t have a college degree. I wasn’t into that whole “completion” thing, to quote The Big Chill. I wish I had it now, but I doubt I would have learned more than I did in other ways.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think so. Why blame the education for the failure of the individual?

It certainly does bring to light the difference, however, between learning and wisdom.

SirBailey's avatar

You need the sheepskin because your COMPETITION has the sheepskin and, unless you want to flip burgers as a career, you get a degree. And more.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I wish I didn’t have to go through the process of obtaining the degree, but I don’t want to work a menial job the rest of my life. All the jobs that I feel I would be fully capable of demand that you have at least a BA or BS. I am currently working on my degree, and even though I would love to say that it doesn’t matter, it really does.

Likeradar's avatar

No, not at all.
College degrees help a person be an all-around more learned person, and gives people easy access to ideas they may have never been exposed to before.

Excellent answer, @Marina

chelseababyy's avatar

My Mom never got her diploma and now makes 170k a year as a Senior Clinical Operations Manager. She just worked her way up for years, first at a no name pharm company.. then Merck, Pharmacia (who was bought out by Pfizer) then Pfizer and now Celgene. She’s gotten two drugs approved since shes been with Celgene that cures (or well puts the cancer in remission) a cancer called Multiple Myeloma. One of the drugs being Thalidomide, which was a drug that was banned all over the world for causing deformation in babies when took by pregnant women (it was used back in the day for morning sickness). Now women can take it while being on two forms of birth control, and it helps with their cancer.

jamielynn2328's avatar

@chelseababyy I know there are success stories. My dad has an 8th grade education and makes 80k a year, not too bad. There are a lot of people who also get their degree and can’t find a job.

SirBailey's avatar

@chelseababyy , I am SO jealous!!! :)

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Education is never a wasteful effort.

Blondesjon's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic . . .I agree. I’m talking more about having a piece of paper that implies you have an education when, in fact, you are a dipshit.

laureth's avatar

Once upon a time, all you needed to get a decent job was a high school diploma – proof that you were more educated than most of the other farmers that had to quit school to tend to the harvest and milking. Education through 12th grade was pretty darn good in comparison.

Then we mostly got off the farm, and pretty much everyone graduated high school. A diploma, due to the law of supply and demand, didn’t mean squat. College educated people were the new “educated folks” and a degree from a college – even an associate’s degree – was the new “diploma.”

Nowadays, at least where I live, a college diploma doesn’t get you squat either, except the entry level jobs that even highschool graduates are no longer “qualified” to do. When the market is glutted with Masters’ Degrees looking for work and hiring managers have their pick of the cream of the crop, you pretty much need a college degree to shine shoes for a living.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Blondesjon That’s more a reflection of the individual than it is a reflection of education. I’m a big proponent of education. As for President Bush, I think that’s a situation where privilege undeserved came into play.

chelseababyy's avatar

@jamielynn2328 It all just depends on what you think is better for you. Some people don’t want or feel the need for college, and they do just fine.

@SirBailey It’s pretty much the only thing I give my mom credit for. I mean, I’m jealous! However she does spend like 40+ hours at work a week. Probably more.

Ivan's avatar

Through with tackling discussion, Blondesjon decides to attack an even deeper root of civilized society: education.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Education isn’t wasteful but many people waste their educations.

YARNLADY's avatar

The only time a college education is a waste of time is when the student doesn’t learn anything due to his own negligence. It is possible to waste the entire time spent in college, but a true education is never a waste.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

While there are some people whose lack of an education is very telling, there are some people whose diploma would be better used to wipe their ass than to hang on the wall. I think it probably has to do more with an individual basis rather than whether you went to college or not.

I don’t think college is a waste, unless you are a useless human being to begin with. Then no amount of education will cure you. While a college education is always a good thing, sometimes, it is wasted, sort of like putting lipstick on a pig.

dannyc's avatar

Unfortunately, education has become too much of a business. Grinding out these supposedly smart kids who will fundamentally take over the planet. In fact, there has been a dilution of the value, I believe. I can only speak anecdotally, from my experience. The smartest people I have met, or who are experts in their field, have no formal training. There are a lot of smart graduates, bu they are not the smartest, at least in my circle, I have a 67 year old friend who is an absolute genius, has tons of patents, and just toils away in his basement. Brilliant, knowledgeable, but no degree. He is discriminated against from formally trained experts who secretly are envious. The “system” stifles creative genius. Just look at all the M.B.A.‘s on Wall Street.

MacBean's avatar

“By and large,” no. But in specific cases, such as the one you brought up, it sure can be.

shilolo's avatar

Absolutely, positively, NOT. Not only is education useful for its own sake, but it is a process that provides formal training (and then some). Are there smart and successful people who don’t go to college? Sure. But, the majority of smart, successful people have achieved and attained a formal education.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

in a way. obviously degrees are needed to get nearly any job, and are especially useful in cases such as the one you mentioned.
but other than that, i don’t really see the full value of a college education in general. i am a strong believer in knowledge = power, but i don’t think college is the only way to gain that knowledge, and i don’t think a degree necessarily means that you’re smarter than the person next to you that doesn’t have a degree. however i think you can certainly learn a lot in college. i just don’t think that a degree is all that it’s amounted to be. the education is the important part, not the paper that gives you a fancy title.

Jack_Haas's avatar

You can learn just as much, far more even, without an education. But the lack of a degree can come back to haunt you later in life. When you are successful professionally, financially, you’ll most likely hang out with people just as successful professionally and financially. But they’ll most likely come out of the same colleges and you’ll never really be part of the “team”. Also, if you fail later in life, the lack of a degree could come back to haunt you big time.

I had no time for college, didn’t like the daddy’s little girl and momma’s little boy types I met there and I had my own business going anyway. I was too busy making money to waste my life there. In retrospect, it was one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made.

Deepness's avatar

Someone once said to me “Do not let school get in the way of your education.”

suzyq2463's avatar

As a college professor, of course I think college education shouldn’t be a waste of time. But, it can be. It’s up to the student. Some people go to college solely because they have to have a piece of paper to pursue their career goals. They don’t come to learn or be taught; they come to get walking papers. For them, education is a waste of time.

I think it’s very sad when people view college as a right rather than an opportunity. They come as consumers and expect to be given grades (“A’s”) because they’ve paid for them. They view college not as an opportunity to grow and be challenged, but as a place for all their insular beliefs and ideas to be affirmed.

Sometimes I wonder if college is wasted on the young. People who come back to school after being out “in the world” for awhile seem to appreciate the experience a whole lot more!

filmfann's avatar

I never wanted to go into Management at my work. However, early in my career my supervisor offered a shot at management to my co-worker, rather than me.
Why? He had a degree. It was in forestry, but it was still a degree.

juwhite1's avatar

A lot of people are able to be quite successful without a college degree, but the road to success is certainly easier and quicker if you do have a degree in your field, and in some fields, success is impossible without the degree. For me, though, the value of an education isn’t really in the money you can earn later. I learned a great deal that no one can ever take from me, and I do utilize things I learned in college a lot in my everyday life. I learned to see things through different lenses, and to better understand the things that happen in the world. Are there other ways to learn those things? Of course, but college affords very easy access to a great deal of information about a great number of things. The paper you get when you are done helps you land the jobs you want, but the actual education… the real value of going to college, is immeasurably important to me. But then, I’m a huge dork!

wildpotato's avatar

Oh my, yes. I am in school now mostly because my parents will pay for it and because in my family, if you don’t have a PhD you simply can’t hold your head up. I have never particularly wanted to be an academic, it’s just the path of least resistance. My degree will be good for nothing but becoming a college professor, but that idea both bores and terrifies me, so it’s very likely that I will never use it for anything. College is a great place to learn one practical skill: drug dealing.

flameboi's avatar

It is if you don’t have common sense which is basic… You can have a bunch of diplomas and still, be an @55h0l3…

SirBailey's avatar

I hire people for various jobs. For every one applicant I get withOUT a college degree, I get 50 applicants that have. That’s the kind of competition I’m talking about.

Darwin's avatar

College education should consist of two things: learning the facts, vocabulary and procedures (if any) that are necessary in order to go into a specific field (for example, law, medicine, or in my case, systematic terrestrial malacology) and also learning how to learn whatever it is you need to learn throughout your life. At the very least, the college degree implies that the holder has enough staying power to last through four years of school in order to get those walking papers.

Bear in mind, however, that these are the same basic things you should get from going to a vocational school, it is just that the subjects are different.

A college education is never a waste of time unless you yourself make it so.

growler's avatar

If you are referring to diplomas, or the seemingly inevitable need to flaunt them everywhere, then probably. Actual education? Nope.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I never connected my higher learning to merely obtaining jobs or making money…it’s very sad when a degree is a means to an end for people…it should be more than that and it has been in my life…I can not wait to go into my 7 year PhD program just to learn more…not to make more…in fact I’ll lose hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way as my income will be cut by 80%

YARNLADY's avatar

@Deepness Probably that was someone who was familiar with Mark Twain, one of my favorite authors.

wundayatta's avatar

Sure. A lot of college students waste a lot of time. The question is—would it be any different if they weren’t in college? Even more important, does time wasted in college equate to the possibility of greater future time wasting when compared to time wasted only in high school?

You don’t have to waste time in college. You could waste it elsewhere, only with less edification. You could be doing drugs. Or drinking. At least time wasted in college has a better chance of giving you more learning.

Of course, most people would rather waste time in college than not in college. Time wasted in college brings you an average of something between 5 and 10k more per year that those who didn’t waste time in college. Also, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of surveys showing that people who wasted time in college are happier and have greater life satisfaction than those who forewent that pleasure.

So all in all, if you have the choice of wasting time in college, then you should probably do it. It is pretty rare for people who don’t waste time in college to be as happy or as wealthy as those who did the college thing.

Now, as to your real question—your premise is totally wrong. Most people don’t tell others they have a degree in order to get over on them, or to make it seem like they are smarter. And if anyone does that, the people who believe that reasoning are pretty much idiots. The only way to tell how competent or smart a person is is to see what they do. If you believe what they say, then you deserve what you get.

In any case, I don’t see this parade of bigwigs telling us we should listen to them because they have diplomas. It’s such a ridiculous idea, that I think you’re having one over on us. Sigh. And I fell for it again. Hey! Go figure. I have a degree. In science!

growler's avatar

@daloon You have many good points. Just to defend myself (even though this doesn’t seem directed at me), I think college educations are quite worthwhile in most cases. I just think that the societal pressure to flaunt the quality of one’s school is unnecessary and degrades the education of those who may have gone to a less prestigious institution. Of course, I am working on a degree at a top liberal arts college so in a way I’ve bought into the system, but I hope to not consider myself inherently “better” than someone else for it.

Blondesjon's avatar

@growler . . .It’s ok. @daloon just wants to make sure everyone knows he has attended a college and recieved a degree…in science!

mattbrowne's avatar

For many professions, on average only 10% of the knowledge taught at university is actually needed. But the other 90% helps us learn how to learn. And this is the most important skill needed after graduation.

Clair's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic Oh, The_Compassionate_Heretic, you’re so wise. I lurve you.

wundayatta's avatar

@Blondesjon You got a problem with science? What’s your degree in? Subatomic physics????? ;-)

filmfann's avatar

So, are we making people who have a liberal arts degree ride the short bus?

wundayatta's avatar

You mean the bus with the low ceiling? Why yes. Yes we are. Also, you need to be in a box about three feet square. Or cube. Whatever. What do I know? My degree is in science. Not math.

Darwin's avatar

What do we ride if we have some of each?

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