The Black Mark Of A Bachelors degree

Yes, I look forward to that day, too.

Back in the eighties, when I was trying to get management at Rockwell to buy clones instead of IBM PCs, because we could have three times as many machines for the money, when the saying was “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” I’d say, “When I’m in charge, I’ll fire someone for buying IBM.”

18 thoughts on “The Black Mark Of A Bachelors degree”

  1. I get the sentiment but I have a different dream, a dream where colleges return to educating young adults in useful knowledge that prepares them to work specific jobs and also provides them with a broader education on less specific things and that this happens without destroying the lives of students or the existence of colleges or the damage done to society by churning our Progressive Marxist revolutionaries.

    What happens after the author’s dream comes true? What happens when the dike breaks?

  2. I’m always encouraged by folks like Irv Culver who worked at Lockheed who apparently had no degrees at all and just learned what he needed to get a job done. Or Freeman Dyson with his basic Bachelor’s in Math who never had time for a PhD.
    I met Irv Culver in a small group of people once and I wish I’d known more about his background then. A friend has a glider that he and Jim Maupin, who was also in that small group, designed.

  3. I’m not sure I see how an Aerospace company could take a 18 year olds with high school math (A.P. Math with Calculus at best) and train that person to be a structural engineer or aerodynamics engineer. For every techie they needed. The cost would be prohibitive; more so since not all candidates would pass the training.

    Until the pipeline got started, there is a substantial money sink with no results.

    And then a company would have to modulate the intake of students as aerospace has it’s ups and downs. Though maybe the market handles that.

    They would essentially be running their own college of Engineering.

    Small companies could not afford that so they would have to send their prospective employees to a Boeing Engineering College.

    And pay for it.

    Right now the education comes more or less free to an employer.

    The other problem is that now corporations either choose to be, or feel as if they are forced to be, woke. So there’s no escaping that aspect.

    Unless all aircraft manufacturers (for example) agreed in unison to announce they are running their company the way they want and if you don’t like it don’t come working for them.

    And don’t fly on their aircraft.

    But even THEN you can’t escape the woke because now the Feds are pushing wokism and their own special brand of tyranny (vaccine mandates).

    The thrust of the article is to downgrade college degrees because they are:

    1) worthless in a lot of cases and
    2) Inculcated with woke

    It’s a method of escaping the woke but it will take a whole lot more than downgrading college degrees to accomplish that.

    1. On the job plus hitting the books on their own with a company mentor could work quite well. Too many alleged engineers have a degree but damn little understanding of applying it. A motivated learner can go far on their own with currently available information. Some in person classroom instruction will likely be necessary for quite some time. OTOH, I could see remote tutoring becoming a major driver of real learning.

      I’ve met a lot of college grads that feely admit that most of the time spent on their degree was useless on their job. People with a BA tend to think 6 months of focused learning would have been quite sufficient. Not to mention that staying current is important to be effective anywhere. Most people have forgotten most of what they sat through in class after a fairly short period of time.

      1. “I’ve met a lot of college grads that feely admit that most of the time spent on their degree was useless on their job. ”

        This is in part because in your typical four year liberal arts college, you only spend about one year studying in your chosen major. Then out of that one or so year, only a small handful of classes that are narrowly tailored. So, even if a student goes into a field related to your major, they aren’t entirely prepared for it.

        Our colleges have a lot of problems but one reason for why there is a disconnect between a college degree and the employment people get after school is that our economy is so diverse that colleges can’t create education programs narrowly tailored to meet them and when they try to, industry changes too fast for colleges to keep up.

        Another reason for the disconnect is that people take the opportunities that open up for them and this means that one of your smaller talents might lead to a higher rung on the employment ladder than your degree would have. I don’t think most colleges are particularly good at building talent stacks that help people make these career changes.

        There should be a greater emphasis on building talent stacks and relating how those talent stacks are used across industries so we don’t have English majors ignoring math and math majors ignoring writing and then all of them ignoring talent stacks that are more commonly taught at a community college.

        Then if you had an English major that went into sales or a math major that became a journalist or any of the other infinite transitions, people would say, “This is what I went to school for.”

        1. Focused self study can do amazing things if motivated. Motivation can come from focusing on things you are passionate about. Second best is focusing on things that are visibly useful now. I believe constantly upgrading oneself can be done today in ways that were impossible before internet.

          Also, a person can be earning while learning the basics. The basics are often more than enough for many jobs. It is also necessary to have the mindset that when it is time to move on, you can control that move by educating yourself.

      2. “On the job plus hitting the books on their own with a company mentor could work quite well. ”

        I don’t see how.

        Plus it would take a very very motivated person to work 8 hours a day and then study several hours each day.

        Many of us did it by going to night school to get advanced degrees. But even there, a lot of the info was organized for us.

        Can you describe how you see this working to educate and train dozens to hundreds of employees for the equivalent of engineering degrees – just for one company? And how would this work for smaller companies who maybe can’t afford to run their own college?

        Do you think there are that many people motivated to both work and study and get it done in a reasonable length of time? I would think it would take many more years to get to Bachelor’s of Engineering level, than the 4-5 it takes in college.

        I recall my college years when I had to have side activities just to be able to have the money to attend college. ROTS scholarships and jobs were necessary and I found myself envying all those kids who had only to attend class and do their homework.

        The nice thing about college is that you can focus on the education and get it done in a reasonable period of time.

        1. Affording 4 or more year of non-earning study as opposed to self sufficiency while teaching oneself?? In any career, the motivated dominate, and the unmotivated become spear carriers with a wasted degree. I think you underestimate the capabilities of motivated people. I also don’t see it as necessary to spend 4 years studying for information, the useful portion of which could be could be assimilated in under 1,000 hours. From some personal experience, and a lot of observation of others.

          1. “Affording 4 or more year of non-earning study as opposed to self sufficiency while teaching oneself??”

            Not everyone can do that self sufficiency thing. Not because they are inferior. But because it’s not easy.

            ” I think you underestimate the capabilities of motivated people.”


            I just don’t think there are enough people with the kind of motivation it will need.

            ” I also don’t see it as necessary to spend 4 years studying for information,…”

            One of my points is that it will take more than 4 years with a self study method.

            Plus you haven’t answered my questions:

            Can you describe how you see this working to educate and train dozens to hundreds of employees [per year} for the equivalent of engineering degrees – just for one company? And how would this work for smaller companies who maybe can’t afford to run their own college?

          2. This is a reply to Brinksedge at 12:33 I don’t believe four years is necessary for the vast majority of people and jobs. I think that is our major sticking point. Even small companies can work with their people with flexible schedules and assistance with tuition, books and tutoring. It’s just not that expensive if handled properly.

            Yes there are some disciplines that need extended focused study. There are far more that would be more effectively served by a several month focused ticket that didn’t leave the person in debt. Also, in todays changing world, it should be obvious to most that they need to educate/update themselves on a regular basis. The drafting classes that I took in the 1970s don’t apply to drafting as done today.

  4. The place I was working in the early’90s had a different take on the computer problem: my 2nd level manager actively held up our requests for Unix workstations (PCs didn’t run the SW packages we needed), because the price was dropping and capabilities increasing every six months – so he was getting praise for saving money by waiting until the price dropped! “Opportunity cost” wasn’t in his vocabulary. He was a dick in lots of other ways too.

    College-wise, I went to the typical mid-south-central-west-US
    State U, and I confess I really didn’t have to take many “useless” classes. Twelve hours of humanities electives my last two years; freshman English was waived because I had high ACTs; easily tested out of a couple of other freshman classes. Took some fun philosophy classes and history of science to cover my humanities, and everything else was math or engineering. There’s lots of those classes I don’t use every day – I haven’t done a line integral in decades 🙂 – but knowing the concepts in the way you can when you once were well versed in it is still important, and ODEs and Laplace transforms (which should really be called Heaviside transforms, but Heaviside was an engineer, not a mathematician so the mathematicians don’t like him) are every day things. And I have the background to self-study for just about anything else I run across that I need to know. So I don’t think I’d change much about my college, but that was more than 30 years ago…

    1. “And I have the background to self-study for just about anything else I run across that I need to know”
      This is one of the complaints about modern college. It’s a place to indoctrinate young minds and to party (but not in the wrong ways or with the wrong people, and don’t dare even think about heteronormative sex, you’ll probably get accused of rape just for the thought itself). Critical thinking skills and problem solving are often missing from modern liberal arts education. Handling people and personalities is also critical, but if your default position is that everyone is beneath you and needs to get woke, you’ll only go far in a woke company. Even then, eventually results speak louder than your degree or alma mater.

      The flip side is, if you apply for a non-entry level coding job that has a coding test, you probably need to know the language and theory at least well enough to not Google it during the exam.

      I believe modern exams for things like fire code inspectors are open book because it’s realistic to have access to the whole thing in real life. That said, there also isn’t enough time to finish the exam successfully if you don’t at least know enough of the material to know where to look and where not to look. Much more realistic than any simple keyword-heavy resume filter for finding actual talent.

  5. Overall I think my degrees have served me fairly well. Since I worked several jobs and only took the classes I could afford each semester it took seven years to get a BA in International Business & Economics, with a Minor in French, but I graduated with all of $500 in debt on a credit card, the remains of my semester in Paris. 1992 was a really, really bad year to graduate but I eventually fell into finance and banking. Over the next 20 years I worked at places like Banque Nationale de Paris and Beal Bank. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

    The Masters in Space Studies has proven less successful, but I do have the legacy of creating the ongoing Moon Day events in North Texas, so I do have to consider the soft “return” of having educated thousands about the value of space. But as with finance, I don’t like where the industry is at and so am doing a Fountainhead until I can find a way to exercise my genius in the field my way in a way that will get results, which don’t seem to be a priority at the moment. (but…progress?)

    So I’m having fun managing a small team at what should be an abysmal failure of an effort: a video/music/game store in a mall. However we’re on track for a million $ in sales in our third year open, so the company’s moving me to open another store here in Texas and work my “Special K” magic there. My boss has learned that while I don’t take instruction well, if he leaves me alone I deliver amazing results while hewing pretty closely to the rules and running a pretty tight ship. My crew is soaking up my accumulated knowledge and experience as I cross-train them all over the place and turn them into sophisticated merchants, and the customers love the store and spending money there.

    Would I rather be leading a successful team achieving results on the Moon or in Cislunar Space? Sure. But until I find the right opportunity that’s not going to happen, and it might be a while before our space industry gets to the point where real results and success are paramount, and not just ticking boxes on a checklist. Where the industry is driven to contribute to the commonweal and advance the prosperity of the nation through access to energy and resources found in abundance right over our heads, and not just suck project largesse from the teats of big government.

    I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying there can be value in college degrees, but a lot of that value is what the recipient makes of that degree. Sure there is a lot of useless dross out there, and malinvestment on a massive scale that is hampering our economy, but college educations can be used to craft future leaders, not just certify future bosses.

  6. Ken Murphy wrote:

    “Overall I think my degrees have served me fairly well. ”

    MNe too. I’ve used just about all of my Computer science degrees (Bach and Masters). And I’ve used a lot of my Aerospace Engineering degree though not as much.

    I will meet John Hare partway and say that I think there can be an abbreviated Engineering degrees that gets you English Composition, Math, Chemistry, Physics and a year or two of the Engineering classes of your choice as a jump start. It can be done in 2-3 years.

    Everything else you get OTJ.

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