My Photo

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Blog powered by Typepad

« Smelting Gold In The Twitter Ghetto | Main | How intellectual pollution has crippled America's children »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Is College Obsolete?:


100 years ago college did matter, more than it does now. It was for the elite, and provided them an incredible and broad education that taught them how to run the world through connections.

The problem isn't that colleges have failed, but that we diluted colleges as they were spread to the middle and lower classes.

Where did you get that 71% number from? It seemed astonishingly high and I've been browsing their site for the past 30 mins going over their data and can't find anything that compares even remotely to your statement.

Could you please provide a direct link or explain how you calculated it?


There are definitely problems with our education system, and with our attitudes toward it. But on your view, when college became irrelevant, in the age of credentialism, the purpose of a college/university --- education --- appears to have been (and still is, presumably) neglected. Yet, before the education system became obsolete, it "didn't matter." One went to a college for "bragging rights". It seems, then, that college never _became_ irrelevant --- it never was! Of course, you tip your hand in the remainder of your post --- we're never (anymore) more than one click from a CEO. Indeed, if business is your primary concern, education in any sense is mostly irrelevant to you. Just go out into the world and do something. On the other hand, if you have any idea of what an education might be, you should seek it at a university, where most of the educated folk tend to be. One dimension of the problem with our education system --- which your post does indirectly convey --- is that many of the people in those classrooms neither desire to be, nor belong there.

@Guillaume Theoret

The statistic comes from page 14 of the report:

If you look at the definition of proficient, you'll see it means that someone who is not proficient would not be able to, among other things, compare and contrast the ideas in two op-eds or read a bus schedule.

"In the 21st century your references ARE your resume.". No they aren't. They support your resume, but are not your actual resume. You may get a foot in quicker than someone else, but, you had better know your shit. A good company hires on more than just who you know.

Reading a bus schedule would be in the Basic category and the vast majority of college graduated have at least that.

I find it interesting that you would draw the conclusion that colleges are useless from these results when it quite clearly shows that only college level education puts a population segment into double digits.

After reading the definitions (particularly: reading lengthy, complex, abstract prose texts as well as synthesizing information and making complex inferences), I wonder if anyone other than a liberal arts/english majorVery interesting data nonetheless. Thanks. is going to hit Proficient. The examples they give don't seem nearly as hard has the plain-english descriptions of the category though. Weird.

This data was very interesting, thanks.

"Hierarchies are no longer necessary, because hyperlinks have subverted them."

Umm... just because some links in the social network are formal and some are informal doesn't mean that hierarchies no longer exist. The fundamentally constrained resource in the time and attention of people who "get shit done". This fact necessitates that some form of hierarchy exists.

As someone else who just graduated college, I can attest also to seeing this tranformation already taking place. While I don't think it will ever be purely one system (as it isn't even now, but I realize that's not what you're saying), hyperlinks (at least the essence of them, which I think is what you're getting at) are indeed starting to take more control of my destiny. Whenever I go to a luncheon, networking event, meeting, apply for a job, etc. more people are interested in talking about their results from Googling me, than my education at St. Olaf College. "Oh, you majored in Psychology and Asian Studies? Interesting... So all of these blog posts you're writing about Generation Y, tell me more!"

Our children are going to have to learn personal branding at a young age, because they will be learning new words, having video chats with their 4-year old friends, drawing on a "web board" so we can see it at work, all via the Internet.

As Seth Godin put it recently, it doesn't matter what happened in the past, only what will happen in the future. It's fun to talk about what colleges used to be/mean, but it doesn't really matter. Colleges need to change, drastically. The whole education system does. Thanks for bringing it up and offering some interesting, and fairly unique thoughts!

Mr. Krupp manages to get just about everything wrong in his analysis - and in doing so actually unintentionally argues for the need for education while failing to specify potential benefits. I would like to make several comments:

1. A network is not the "most advanced" form of social organization. A network is simply a set of nodes connected to each other along some dimension and ties maybe direct or indirect. As such, all forms of social organization can be expressed in network terms.

2. Hierarchies have not failed and are still important today. Large organizations will evolve hierarchical structures as a result of the need to coordinate the various functions of the organization. Simply put: The larger the organization, the greater the need for hierarchical administration of functions.

3. The author's historical analysis is in many cases simply incorrect. Urbanization, which may or may not be coupled with advances in transportation, is what has disrupted traditional relationships. This is tied to industrialization. The author subsequently assumes no patterns of social organization appear in the aftermath of these changes. This is incorrect. Following the disorganization that accompanies urbanization, voluntary organizations, professional associations, etc, all emerge and provide, what is in many ways, more useful network connections than previous forms of social organization which tended to rely on kinship systems. In fact, in many ways urbanization was important in liberating people from previous relationships which tended to be far more restrictive.

4. While it is interesting to think of relationships in terms of "degrees of separation", the author fails to observe that there are qualitative differences in the type of connection two nodes possess. I may be 1-node removed from Bill Gates, but it is not likely he would reply to an e-mail if I sent him one and it is even less likely he tell me his darkest fantasies. Families, like businesses or friends, can be expressed in network terms, but they vary from one another tremendously in terms of the types of information being exchanged.

5. Credentialism has not failed. To imply credentialism has failed, one needs to specify its original purpose. This far more complex than it sounds and one could look to business interests in reducing basic training skill costs and seek to minimize transaction costs associated with evaluating members of a labor market . Additionally, one could look at the interests of the state to create “well rounded” individuals who are prepared for citizenship or professional groups who seek to monopolize particular services through the establishment of certification boards.
This being said, the author is correct in his assertion that people pursue the degree and not knowledge, but this does not mean that those who possess both did not benefit from a higher education. In fact, these individuals were the one who believed the most that an education should mean something.
If we look at the literacy report the author cites we can find a prime example of how education can benefit an individual. A previous comment noted that higher proficiency was tied to higher levels of education, but at another level the question emerges as to whether one has been educated to critically assess such reports. Several issues emerge with the study. First, statistical significance is noted, but is not clear which alpha level was used. The issue of significance is also related to sample size and at 19k responses many differences are likely to be statistically significant even if substantively there is negligible difference. Second, the literacy tests were different between the two time periods. This methodological change, when combine with the small difference in scores between time periods, could possible explain any differences in test scores. Third, the tables were based on bivariate relationships and as such could be spurious. Immigration trends alone could impact literacy rates and as new groups are becoming represented in higher rates in different categories (i.e. sex, education, occupation, etc), literacy rates could be decreasing.
If there are no real changes in literacy between the 1990’s and the recent study, we are left to conclude that either credentialism is not really related to literacy or that if the authors assertion is correct, credentialism must have “failed us” long before the 1990’s and its effects have leveled off since then.

Now, some one could google “statistics” and try to learn these things, but good luck with that. Or one could have his/her friend say “Yeah, Krupp is good at statistics.” But for these sorts of technical issues, A degree in hand is better than a reference. And a degree in hand and a reference is better than both.

6. To say degrees are on their way out is simply ludicrous. If anything, degrees and certifications are growing. Look at your local college’s or University’s college catalog and count the number of certification and degree programs. Moreover, who wants to hire an engineer who does not have a degree? A physicist? A doctor? Certain areas lend themselves more to the necessity of degrees than other (i.e. Pharmacist v. Social Worker), but the trend is not moving in the direction the author suggests.

Degrees mean dick. Just about every contract I get these days, I have beaten out some jerk (or several jerks) trying to pay off student loans. The difference is that while I was learning my trade through practice and real-life experience, they were being forced, probably by their parents or guardians, to continue their mindless, ego-killing career of academics. Clients don't care about your fucking credentials. Clients care about time and money. You don't get the job/contract/etc.. because you have to charge too much, because you are factoring in your student loans in to EVERYTHING you do. If this sounds familiar, you were probably screwed by going to school, longer than you really needed to. This is one of the main problems with our health care system, as well. If it didn't cost several million dollars to produce a single doctor, the overall state of education would be more viable. If you disagree with this fact, you are a brainless asswipe.

That is why there is no passion behind 99% of degrees today and why overall, people seem less confident with themselves. You can't force people to become professionals or purchase credentials for your children; they have to want it for themselves. That is why I don't understand people saving money for asshole-kids to go to school. Ever heard the phrase, "It's not tuition, it's a cover charge."

College has unfortunately become (aside from a giant joke) simply "High School: the Sequel" .. brainless fucks keep ending up there, because their parents are at wits end and need them to get out of their house. Fast-forward two (or more) years and that bullshit degree will be put to good use, working for Wal-Mart, for minimum wage.

College is a waste of time,school too.Its the twenty first,Ive learnt more in the last two months on wikipedia then I ever did in my fifteen years in a 300 year old education system(And I studied Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science).Seriously I feel sorry for teachers nowadays they are forced to spoonfeed gabage that isnt even relevant anymore.Why any company would want to be bothered with anyone from the 1700's is beyond me.Highschool is dead.College is dead.More than half of the first class grads from my college days cant even read a book the rest dont even know what a book is.

Sadly, university education has been slowly eroded by the ever-dropping standards of public education which has become a machine for producing drones. Graduates who are unmotivated, unwilling to think critically, and apathetic. Everyday in my classroom I see rows of students who can barely pretend to be interested because the fun of learning has been smothered long ago. It will take a huge and prolonged effort by teachers everywhere to turn that ship around!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.