Many people say that our education system is broken. It's not. Our system of education is obsolete. What may have made sense one hundred years ago no longer makes sense today.
One hundred years ago college didn't matter. Maybe for bragging rights, but not for getting a job. People lived in the same town their entire lives. Everyone knew everyone else and anyone could vouch for you. It was a network; the most advanced form of social organization.
With the advent of modern transportation, people were no longer fixed. After the first world war, people could live anywhere they wanted, and increasingly they did. No one knew anyone and so no one could vouch for you. Transportation and surpassed our social support systems. Colleges saw this and stepped up to plate as the trusted middleman, and so we regressed from networks to hierarchies.
This wasn't necessarily bad in and of itself. Hierarchies can be efficient too. Corporations are usually hierarchies, and they are one of our most adaptive social systems.
Things got bad when credentialism surpassed education as the primary function of college. If you want evidence of this, consider the criteria for the US News & World Report college rankings: Peer assessment, student selectivity, faculty resources, graduation and retention rate, financial resources, alumni giving, and graduation rate performance. Notice anything missing?
Are colleges not ranked in order of how much students learn because that would be impossible to measure? Or is it because no one cares?
As the old saying goes, "What gets measured gets done." According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 71% of college graduates are unable to read proficiently. What exactly is getting done?
Colleges have failed. Credentialism has failed. Hierarchies have failed.
And they haven't just failed abstractly or in general. They've failed me personally.
The good news is that, thanks to the Internet, degrees may be on their way out. The Internet, as the name suggests, is a global network. Everyone is connected to everyone else. I'm connected to every fortune 500 CEO within one degree. So are you. Sounds a lot like pre-WWI society doesn't it?
Recruiters rely on degrees because they are the easiest way to grok what someone is all about. The problem is that relying on credentialism is an act of faith, comparable to closed source eVoting without a paper trail. And we all know what that got us. The Internet is changing this. Every year our lives become more transparent as our words and actions become increasingly digitized and searchable. What credentialism was to the twentieth century, Google will be to the 21st.
In the 20th century your references were something you put on your resume. In the 21st century your references ARE your resume.
Thanks to the Internet I am connected with almost every CEO within two degrees. It's as if we all live in a small village again, where everyone knows everyone and anyone can vouch for you. Hierarchies are no longer necessary, because hyperlinks have subverted them.
As technology multiplies, new social systems and metaphors will emerge as others obsolesce. Only humanity remains untouched.