What is the Real Value of Your Degree?

Age of the Geek, Baby!

Permission is granted to reprint the following article as long as no changes are made and the byline, copyright information,and the resource box is included. Please let me know if you use this article by sending an email to dje@newedisongazette.com.

What is the Real Value of Your Degree?

Copyright © December 26, 2015 Douglas W Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

Tonight I am moving on to the Photoshop Intermediate level courses after nearly two years on beginning courses, which are equivalent to an Associates degree. After gaining all my certificates in the Intermediate courses, I think I will have the equivalent of a Bachelors degree training. This will probably take at least another year to complete. I have glanced ahead at the Advanced studies to see what is in them. They go so much further and have so much more dedication and time required that I cannot help but think they are the equivalent of a Masters, although I am sure my son James, who has his BA in Game Programming and Design, would insist that this is still just a Bachelor level. Still, I think James knows enough about PhotoShop, Illustrator, Lightroom, Electronics, Robotics, etc., plus several years working in those fields, that he could easily get a great job teaching in any of the tech colleges if he wanted to do so.

This is just my opinion, but I think I am getting a better education for a lot less money by studying outside of a traditional campus and on my own time. In a more traditional setting, you are studying under tenured professors who have very little interest in bringing their own level of knowledge up to date, and who resist the updated knowledge base of any new teachers that come into their educational system because it is a threat to their entrenched positions. I suspect that most private enterprises realize that the best candidates for hire are often times not those who have a four year degree, who are often still incompetent, but those who have autodidactic knowledge and the experience rather than the piece of paper and $100,000 in loans they're trying to repay.

I find it interesting, if not just anecdotal, that even the Hollywood film industry typically displays the brilliant and highly talented computer geek who saves the day (or malevolently challenges it) as a guy who learned his craft on his own. I suspect that Hollywood is closer to the truth than academia would have us believe. There are many examples of this, but my favorite is probably Alec Hardison (played by Aldis Hodge) in the five seasons of Leverage. Both he and his arch-nemesis Chaos (Wil Wheaton) are self-taught hackers, the best and the second best in the world. Their schools were, in both cases, what they learned on their own hard work and fanatical determination. Neither one, it is implied, has a degree. There are many other examples of this tendency in the film industry to recognize the autodidact as the one with the more profound understanding of his craft because he learned it outside the confines of an establishment/institutional environment. Hollywood may be wrong on a lot of things, but I think they hit the nail squarely on this one.

I am not entirely decrying the value of a secondary school degree. Typically, the reason why business still holds a degree on a resume in esteem is because it is evidence of a person's ability to "follow through"; i.e., to show evidence of their determination to finish what they have started, and they will therefore have the discipline to do the same in their new occupation. That is always a good thing. That is, however, almost always a false hope, and in reality is an evidence that the candidate will do what little he has to do in order to survive the environment into which he is moving. After all, that is what he was trained to do in the institutional setting of higher education that he just came from. Too often, finishing a degree is less an indication of one's commitment to his field of study and to hard work, than it is of commitment to the status quo, or maintaining the orthodoxy that pays off their loans and gives them a suburban home, with a little prestige on the side. That is the dark side of most higher education - the commitment to mediocrity.

Again, I am not criticizing the many hard working young people who invest their time and future finances in getting a higher education so that they can move amicably into the field they are passionate about. My son James is proof to me that those people are there, and have overcome such tendencies through great fortitude on their part. My criticism is the system that encourages them to do the least they can so they can get the most they can out of it. It is the few in such a system (and I believe James is one of that few) that are able to use such a system and rise above it. I think the reason why he was able to do so was simply because he was never a part of the establishment educational system from the beginning; because he was taught at home. He was "home-schooled". He learned from the beginning to think for himself, and act as a responsible individual rather than as a state-certified drone. He learned, like Hardison in Leverage did from his Grandmother, (and James from his parents), the value of teaching himself. That is why my son James is a success in his chosen field, while so many others who were his class-mates in college are still flipping burgers today.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the NewEdisonGazette.com. You may contact him at dje@newedisongazette.com.


Return to The New Edison Gazette main site.