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02 June 2007


Kenneth Pike

Ah, AP English... those were the days. I revisited Crime and Punishment in Philosophy 340: Dostoevsky and Nietzsche and found myself sorry we hadn't spent more time with Dostoevsky.

While your criticism is valid, if one would fix the problem, surely one must locate its source. Is this a problem with higher education, secondary education, public education...? Despite the ridiculous ease with which many "advanced" certificates can be obtained, I would suggest that securing a degree--any degree--remains more difficult than performing the jobs for which one thusly "qualifies." And the primary motivation for pursuing degrees is (I would argue, sadly) economic.

So what is the value of a degree? What is the purpose of education? If you value knowledge for its own sake, if you value enlightenment and clear thinking... you don't need a degree, let alone an advanced degree, though you might cherry-pick courses from a reputable university for your own personal advancement. But if you want the world to see you as "educated," either in your pursuit of employment or your pursuit of general influence, there is an obstacle course to negotiate and a piece of paper to hang on your wall.

I don't want to present a false dichotomy--I think a degree can at least potentially represent both an intellectual achievement and a prerequisite for employment. But corporate America in general rewards hoop-jumping, not intellect. Hoop-jumping is economically efficient, totally quantifiable and 100% institutionalized. And most people get degrees to get a job, not to make themselves better people.

I wonder if maybe you've answered your own complaint. In noting that the point of "higher" education is education beyond high school, you seem to view a necessary connection between an associate's degree and an associate's education. The market is driving a wedge between those concepts, and that creates dissonance in those who believe education should be more than merely preparatory to a vocation.


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