Circa 20 years ago having a Bachelor’s degree from university would guarantee you a relatively secure and well-paying job. As of 10 (or so) years ago the prerequisite was more in the line of a Masters degree, and these days, there are countless PhD graduates out there in the privileged Western world who have given years of their lives to concerted study only to find themselves with an official piece of paper, a mountain of student debt and and only a long string of temporary academic contracts to live out the rest of their days on (if that).
Educationalist Sir Ken Robinson points out that there were no public education systems before the 19th century – they all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism; there was an implicit established hierarchy where the top subjects were the ones most likely to get you a good job. In his 2006 Ted Talk he pointed out that in the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people worldwide will be graduating higher education programs than since the beginning of history. Which means, alas and increasingly: degrees are no longer really worth anything. And yet there are few other models people can follow to educate themselves outside of this system, and, almost more importantly, to receive equivalent accreditation with which to help them follow life pursuits in a professional capacity.
The goal behind this conversation is going to be to take a look at what education actually has to offer us these days, (besides the ego fluffing inevitably brought on by ‘having (a) degree(s)’) Is higher education really bringing society as a whole further, or is it just hitting the snooze button on engagement with ‘real life’ while padding the trust funds (and sometimes even bigger egos) of academic bigwigs.
(with special thanks to Kate for suggesting this month’s discussion topic!)