The Value of Education

Last week I wrote an aggressive piece criticizing non-technical education. I’m not backing down from that stance, but as my sister is currently studying for her MBA, I’d like to offer some reassurance to anyone who might have been intimidated by those words. I wasn’t trying to say that the Business School isn’t valuable or necessary. The piece was intended as a warning to anyone with misplaced confidence in accreditation. I’ve seen far too many graduates with egos disproportionate to their actual value in modern society. The world is changing very rapidly, and anyone clinging to outdated definitions of achievement and success will not make it very far in the future.

My advice is radical: Disregard the metrics that your teachers provide, and come up with your own as soon as possible. If you’re dutifully completing your schoolwork to earn a degree that will make someone respect you or be proud of you, don’t abandon that. However, don’t let yourself think that those credentials will matter to everyone you meet in the professional world. Nobody seems to care where I went to school anymore. Having a degree got me to this point, so I can’t disregard its importance, but at the same time my degree doesn’t guarantee me very much money, power, or prestige.

From Latin, education is literally the process by which a teacher “leads out” knowledge from a student. We haven’t figured out a better way to motivate young children, but there comes a point in every student’s life where knowledge must be willfully sought. Unless you’re enrolled in a trade school, that point is now before the end of college. Your professors are trying to help you, but they can only grant you legal accreditation, which is necessarily someone else’s definition of success. That’s not enough anymore. Even if you’re going for your PhD, it won’t bring you a good job that doesn’t require advanced mathematics. The harsh reality is that you will almost certainly have to work towards excellence on your own. Start now, before it’s too late.

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