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How Business is Killing Real Education

Our education system could use some serious reform. There should be no one who doubts that. I’ve sat in rooms with the CEO’s from some of the largest companies in the world and listened to them whine about the terrible education possessed by potential employees. What I wish I could have done is jump up to the microphone and scream out, “you are right and it is largely your fault.”

I hate blaming things on business because they are a politician’s favorite punching bag; However, this is a case where they are the right target. The problem we have with education is that the market does not place value on actual education, but has instead focused on academic achievement; essentially valuing a paper degree with no intrinsic worth over a well-educated mind with tremendous value.

A quick thought experiment; Imagine a world where businesses require potential employees to take an aptitude test as part of the application. The business owner says: “You want to work at my business? Great, here is the test that we have for our company that establishes the basic criteria you need in order to work here. Let’s see if you can pass it.” How do you think potential employees would begin to prepare to find employment? How do you think colleges would change to prepare students for the work force? Run a few sample industries through your head: politics, nursing, teaching, construction, management, etc. I think you’ll quickly find yourself constructing interesting tests that would weed out those who know the field from those who have simply read about it and you can think through how the education system would quickly adapt to prepare graduates for all types of tests.

When businesses look to find new employees in the current environment, they aren’t making applicants take aptitude tests. Instead, they requiring a college diploma of various levels and are using that as the way to establish employment credentials. The message that this sends to high school students looking at colleges is that learning and education are not the prime objects; attainment of a degree is. Colleges follow suit by focusing their goals on the number and types of degrees needed to service the marketplace. It is easy to blame the colleges and students for poor education, but both colleges and students are simply responding in their own self-interest to the demands of the marketplace. It is business that’s to blame for creating a market based not on actual learning or knowledge, but on a worthless piece of paper.

I imagine you have probably thought that many of the jobs wouldn’t need a test or certainly would not need a very robust one. You are right and this should tell you how many people actually need a college degree.

There is always going to be some merit in being an academic, but academia and business are two very different concepts. When we are using academia for business, we ought to realize that academia will respond to the demands of the market. What the market should demand is knowledge and education that bring value to a company, not a plaque on the wall. There’s often a grave mistake made when a company passes over an employee who has worked successfully in middle level management for 25 years without a degree in order to hire a brand new kid out of college with a Harvard degree. Yet, this sort of behavior happens all the time.

As a result of bad business hiring practices and equally bad wage distribution decisions, colleges have become overvalued and we have created an enormous education bubble. Students are following the market like the pied piper to the trough of personal debt where they are taking on years of indentured servitude. This is a mistake and it is bad for our businesses, it is bad for our economy, it is bad for our people, and it is bad for actual education and learning. It all starts with the businesses and if we are going to get out of this rut, the simplest thing we can do is to have businesses re-prioritize and stop asking for diplomas and start asking for well-educated,knowledgeable, and capable employees. Merit over a piece of paper. A simple concept that would change society for the better.

Posted in Photograph Post Date 03/31/2018