The Odd Criteria of a College Degree

One reason why so many people willingly dig themselves deeply in debt to get a college degree is because they hope a college degree will give them greater income and opportunities in the future. The problem with this logic is that it assumes that college somehow turns out more valuable people than someone who doesn’t go to college, which isn’t always true.

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, reportedly refuses to promote or work with people who haven’t been to college or who attended colleges she personally doesn’t respect. Business Insider reports “Even though the actress Gwyneth Paltrow had created a best-selling cookbook and popular lifestyle blog, Mayer, who habitually asked deputies where they attended college, balked at hiring her as a contributing editor for Yahoo Food. According to one executive, Mayer disapproved of the fact that Paltrow did not graduate college.”

Such thinking shows both the value of a college degree and the stupidity of people who use a college degree as the sole metric for determining a person’s worth. Walk on any college campus and you’ll find plenty of idiots, many of whom are even college professors with Ph.D’s. A college degree simply shows what someone has done in the past, but doesn’t show what that same person can do in the present and the future.

To judge someone solely on what college they attended decades ago is like granting a $40 million dollar NBA contract to someone who once made five half court shots in a row when they were in high school. That person may have done something admirable in the past, but that doesn’t automatically mean that person can be useful or even competent in the present or the future.

Unimaginative people use college degrees as a way to measure someone’s value because they lack the intelligence to use real measurements of a person’s worth. What matters isn’t what someone did years ago and what college they did it in, but what they can do now. In other words, you want to look for actions and results, not the past as your criteria for judging anyone or anything.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates dropped out of college along with Mark Zuckerberg who developed Facebook. So according to Marissa Mayer, she wouldn’t hire these people in favor of someone who just attended a college she respects. That type of thinking right there tells you the future of Yahoo under her misguided leadership.

Bill Gates, who built up Microsoft, never graduated from college. Steve Ballmer (who did graduate from college), helped bring Microsoft down. Who was the more valuable person? According to Marissa Mayer’s criteria, Steve Ballmer was the better CEO since he graduated from Harvard and Bill Gates did not.

This illogical obsession with college degrees blinds people to the real purpose of a college degree, which is to give someone the necessary skills and knowledge to produce useful results. Ultimately, if you can’t produce useful results, it doesn’t matter how much education or college degrees you have. Just visit any homeless shelter and you’ll find plenty of homeless people doing nothing with their college degrees. Maybe Marissa Mayer can hire them to do nothing at Yahoo just as long as they went to a college she respects.

The technology world isn’t any different. Products should produce useful results regardless of which company makes it or whether that product was once the best in the past. Back in the 90’s, few people would argue that Windows was the best option for most people. Nowadays, Windows is no longer the only valid option with Linux, OS X, Android, and iOS available. What matters less is the operating system you use and what matters more is how easy it can be to produce a useful result.

The Tianhe-2 may be the most powerful supercomputer in the world but an Xbox is better if you just want to play multiplayer games, despite the far lower technological features that an Xbox offers compared to a supercomputer. Based on technical features alone, the supercomputer should be the superior gaming machine despite the fact that it won’t let you play the same sophisticated multiplayer games as an Xbox. Judging products solely on technical features is just as foolish as judging people solely on the college they attended.

People who don’t want to think readily grasp simplistic ways to measure the superiority of anything whether it’s based on the sheer number of technical features or the college degree someone earned. Thinking takes effort, which means looking for results in the present and the future, not for irrelevant accomplishments in the past. When people can stop using the past to measure the present, progress can finally move forward for everyone.

January 7th, 2015 by
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