Kathy Sierra over at Creating Passionate users has this extented post on the meaningfulness of college:
Creating Passionate Users: Does college matter?
The average education in computer science, engineering, and even medicine is partly obsolete within 18 months. Some weird variant of Moore’s law I guess. The conventional wisdom says that the specifics of what you learn are much less important than the fact that you’re learning the fundamentals, and you’re learning to learn–things you’ll need to maintain your skills and knowledge in a quickly changing world.
She goes on to point out that the only people saying that are the educators. It’s not something any student says. For good reason.
The one point never raised in any of this discussion is the very real problem of credentialing.
Colleges do not exist to provide education. Call me a bitter old man, but I learned this long ago. They say they exist to provide education, but the reality is that they’re doing as bad a job as all the other institutions and the only part that really matters is the credential at the end.
I admit that statement breaks down for the self-employed. If you never want to work for anybody but yourself, then you don’t need credentials. But try to get a job without the requisite piece of paper. It doesn’t matter how much you know. It doesn’t matter what skills you have. The very first hurdle is the paper. It’s only after that when things get a little more flexible.
Please don’t miss my point here. To keep the job, you have to know stuff. Ideally. But to apply for the job, you need to have the requisite credentials.
Perhaps there’s some Darwinian selection going on in the institutions of education. If you are passionate enough to finish your degree in the face of all those who strive to suck the passion out of it, then you’d be a good one — what ever it is.
Unfortunately, in light of the evidence I’m afraid it’s more likely that we’ve mechanized curricula, dumbed it down to bedrock, and bought into a mindset that grades on the basis of “well, it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but they all did about the same level so I maybe it’s my fault.”
These are gross over-generalizations, I know, but i defy anybody reading this to tell me you NEVER took a course where the only thing you wanted/needed/got from it was the credit hours. My concern is that we’re at a stage where that’s all most people want from most courses.
And I’m afraid that’s all they’re getting.