To Degree, or Not to Degree? That is the Question.

Having a degree DOES matter




Today, I met a new gal at work and we began to chat. She told me that she was 22 years old and had just recently completed her degree in English. Thus, our conversation regarding books began. Yes, I knew there were three Bronte sisters. Yes, I knew the “conspiracy theory” surrounding Shakespeare’s work actually being written by Marlowe. (Or a handful of others.)

I thought that Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations did not live up to MY expectations, and that Lady Chatterly’s Lover lacked a good climax.   I did not read War and Peace, but I have read Orwell and feel he paints a very clear picture of what we can expect in the very near future if we aren’t careful. Yes, I have read plenty, and I think that the young gal was a bit surprised.

Don’t get me wrong here. This gal I was conversing with was sweet, and far from haughty. There was still an element of underlying intent on her part to impart to me that she was far more knowledgeable about books than I was-which was inevitably met with my return serve.

One might think that this is a good argument to prove that one does not need a degree to be knowledgeable about anything.   To a large extent, this is true. I think it’s important for anyone with a degree to be cognizant of the fact that they are no smarter than anyone else. (Perhaps more knowledgeable in certain areas, but that is it.) More importantly, they are not better than anyone else. And I think, that for the most part, people with degrees do not think they are smarter or better than anyone else.

Sadly, I think there are far more people who do not have a degree that are intimidated (I use that term loosely) by someone with one, and immediately ASSUME that the person with the degree thinks they are smarter than they are. I don’t believe that the reality of the situation is as close to that as those without degrees would like to think.

Yes, there are a lot of jerks out there. Some have degrees. Some don’t. Some who have degrees flaunt it with arrogance and take the stance of superiority. The ones who don’t flaunt whatever they’ve got just as fiercely as someone with a degree, in their own attempts to attain superiority.   People are people. We all use whatever we have to try and get ahead, especially in the work place.

Yet, there seems to be this growing movement against getting a degree and people with degrees. I have seen plenty of videos and posts on Facebook postulating that for a young person to start their lives out with massive debt is stupid.   That with the age of computers and Google, we have vast amounts of information at our fingertips and so going to college isn’t even really needed. You get the point. On the surface, these seem like valid arguments, right?

I have mountains of debt and owe “the gov” over thirty-five thousand dollars in student loans. The payments per month are staggering, at over $600 per month. I mean, that’s more than my rent! Financially, I am no better off than before I got my degree. I made more money, but all that extra money went towards paying the loans. To me, that’s the beginning of an argument for free college tuition for anyone who wants to go and gets good grades, but that’s not what this is about presently.  For a young person, I don’t believe that’s a big deal. Because once the loans are paid off, that extra cash is then yours. Not only that, but as you gain more experience in your chosen field, you can be promoted and make more money as well. I will also add that I was no longer having to work crummy jobs for nothing. My work environment had improved along with the pay, even if I wasn’t necessarily better off financially. Let’s not assume that all students end up in debt, either. Many of them get scholarships and grants, and/or mom and dad pay their tuition.

So, what about having all the information I would ever need at my fingertips? Well, I think that’s only true in degrees. I love Google just as much as the next person. I am a naturally curious person, and I use that search engine all the time. Pretty much anything I want to know, is there. In bits and pieces. Sometimes, it’s not.   Sometimes, Google gets it wrong.  And sometimes, a mere sentence or two found by Google just doesn’t cut it, either. So, I can only partially go along with this argument also.

I think the biggest misconception is in assuming that access to information means education is no longer needed. One does not necessarily lead to the other.

Take for instance, my new co-worker who has her degree in English. She didn’t go to school and merely learn how to dissect sentences, correct grammar, and read a bunch of classic novels. Anyone who thinks that is being naïve. She also took her math, science, and humanities, etc. The point is not merely about information. It’s about being a well-rounded human being!

Okay, anyone can be well-rounded without having to go to school, one may argue. Sure. I’ll go along with that. But are they doing it?   How many people pick up a book beyond high school? Or make a real effort to be a better person, other than the occasional diet, going to the gym and working out, or travelling?   Which is not to discount those things, by any means. Yet, I think it’s true that growth and being well-rounded goes beyond being physically healthy and travelling. Maybe those are poor examples, but that’s the best I’ve got off the top of my head.

Did you know that the rate of divorce decreases with the amount of education each person in the relationship has? Did you know that education benefits a society as a whole, and there is a correlation of higher education with decreased poverty and crime? Education is not a four-lettered word!

I can personally attest to one thing. Working in an office of people with degrees was far less dramatic and difficult than working in an office where most people did not. The mentality and attitudes were just different and more mature. (Maybe respectful is a better word than mature, but sometimes, mature was definitely the word.) What do you think caused this, if it’s “just a piece of paper”?

I again defer to my new co-worker. While she may have been surprised about my knowledge of books, there was no need to argue over who was smarter, or right, or anything like that. We both knew better than to even entertain those ideas.

Getting a degree is not just about getting all “learned up,” or even being a well-rounded person. While a lot of liberal schools are basically brain washing a lot of their students today, (I won’t go there) higher education can be a good tool for teaching you how to think, and how to become a CRITICAL thinker. (I don’t mean being critical of others, either.) It’s about figuring out what you really believe. It’s about knowing who you really are-because when you get those difficult questions thrown at you and you have to write a paper on it, you’re going to give it some thought instead of picking up your next doughnut and plugging in to the next video game.

It’s about sitting through hours and hours of lectures with profs who are boring, eccentric, militant, or out to prove something. It’s about learning to get along with said professors and figuring out what they want, so you can pass the class. It’s about spending hours and hours reading textbooks. It’s about spending hours and hours doing research and being able to write papers that back up your opinion, instead of just throwing crap out there because it rings true to you. It’s about sleepless nights studying for tests. It’s about jumping through the hoops to get your financial aid in order, and getting your classes lined up, and scheduling, and writing essays for grants and scholarships. It’s juggling a job and trying to keep your grades up. For a lot of people like me, you can also throw raising kids into the equation. Most people do this for Four. Long. Years. (In my case, it was five, because I basically had to start all over.) It gets old pretty fast, let me tell you. I would venture to guess that this is a big part of why a lot of people never start, and never finish.

It’s about PERSEVERANCE. It’s about finding out for yourself what you are made of.

I’m sorry, but for those of you who think it’s just a piece of paper you pay for with dollars and it means nothing, I think you’re wrong. It’s exponentially more than that.

I’m not saying that a person must have a degree to do well in life, or be intelligent, or be well-rounded. One is not essentially dependent upon the other in either direction. There are people with degrees who end up working at McDonald’s and people without them who do extremely well.   What I AM saying though, is that it doesn’t really make much sense to point to ANY small group of people and reason that there is a correlation that does not exist, and that the solution is to do away with that group of people. (Ultimately.)

Yes, the debt of the matter basically stinks. I get frustrated about it all the time. Yes, I can Google anything I want and pretty much get the answers I am looking for. But I am so glad I got my degree. I wouldn’t trade it for Google, even if they paid me. I was forty years old before I finally got it done, and I STILL learned things about myself I had never even considered. I learned SO much. I don’t regret it at all. And what I learned-they can never take away from me.

So, you Nay Sayers can go right ahead and poo-poo getting a degree all you want. Those of us who can think critically are able to see how flimsy your arguments are. Not only that, but to try and influence people against bettering themselves mentally is not only ignorant, but harmful to a society. It is not just a piece of paper. Higher education matters. Even to you. You just don’t know it yet.






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