Friday, April 07, 2006

Getting an education vs. getting a credential

The University of Pennsylvania Gazette has a powerful article on credential inflation. Two professors, Ivar Berg and Randall Collins, point out that over the years employers keep asking for more and more credentials. The end result is that you'll need a PhD to be a janitor. This is a bit extreme, but they make some good points.

Dr. Berg made the point in Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery that employers are using credentials as crude hiring criteria. Berg shows the kind of credential inflation we've had over the last sixty years: "We fought WWII with four percent college graduates and 24 percent high-school graduates..." Berg researched how high-school and college graduates compared in various jobs. After on the job training high-school graduates did just as well as college graduates in many industries.

Dr. Collins wrote The Credential Society in which he claims that the rapid growth of high-school and college education in the 19th century was driven by "the desire of prosperous and middle-class families to secure status for their progeny." Collins studied other credential systems, for example the ancient Chinese civil service, and found that the dominant groups used credentials to control. In the United States he says we've had less mobility over the last couple generations.

Dr. Collins illustrated his point with a sad story about a young man who had been an Army medic in Vietnam. He had practiced medicine on the battlefield. He understood medicine, and Dr. Collins thought the young man would have been an excellent doctor. But the medical schools admission board wouldn't admit him because his grades weren't good enough. The process had become more important than helping students get a good education.

Homeschoolers recognize the basic issue here. There is a different between getting an education and getting a piece of paper. The public school system focuses on getting students through the 13 years of school and then giving them a piece of paper. That credential means they are a high school graduate. Unfortunately it doesn't mean the students were educated. Homeschoolers educate their children.

It is worth reading the whole article.

And remember, when (or if) your children start talking about going off to college, make sure they are planning on getting an education. The credentail is just a piece of paper.

(Hat tip: The Homeschooling Revolution)


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1 comment:

steph said...

How interesting. My father in law was an Army medic in Vietnam, also, and actually went on to BECOME a doctor. However, his grades and dyslexia were also major obstacles, and he ended up taking the family to Mexico to earn his degrees there (I'm absolutely sure cost was a factor as well! They were poor as church mice). He didn't know Spanish when he arrived (!) but learned quickly, and after graduation did his internship and residency in the US. He retired a couple years ago after becoming a noted and well-beloved physician in his community.

Wonder what the other medic went on to eventually do?