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10 January 2014


Russ Steele

From the Harvard Business Review http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/the-degree-is-doomed/

In these fields in the innovation economy, traditional credentials are not only unnecessary but sometimes even a liability. A software CEO I spoke with recently said he avoids job candidates with advanced software engineering degrees because they represent an overinvestment in education that brings with it both higher salary demands and hubris. It’s a red flag that warns that a candidate is likely to be an expensive, hard-to-work-with diva who will show no loyalty to the company. MBAs have an even more challenged reputation in the innovation economy. Several of the education startups I advise that directly provide programs to students — notably Dev Bootcamp and theFullbridge Program — recently met with other immersive unaccredited programs to consider whether to jointly develop a new type of credential. Their conclusion: Credentials are so 20th century.

My advice is learn a programing skill in high school and work your way though a good engineering school, there are still lots of stuff you need to learn about how systems work, but be sure to tell the loan officer to kiss off when he or she comes around.

Russ Steele

I am currently reading Glenn Reynolds new book The New School. This is what Amazon has to say about the book, and it fits nicely with the subject of this post:

Economist Herb Stein famously said that something that can't go on forever, won't. For decades now, America has been investing ever-growing fortunes into its K-12 education system in exchange for steadily worse results. Public schools haven't changed much from the late 19th century industrial model and as a result young Americans are left increasingly unprepared for a competitive global economy. At the same time, Americans are spending more than they can afford on higher education, driven by the kind of cheap credit that fueled the housing bubble. With college graduates unable to secure employment or pay off student loans, the real-world value of a traditional college education is in question.

In The New School, Glenn Harlan Reynolds explains how parents, students and educators can, and must, reclaim and remake American education. Already, Reynolds explains, many Americans are abandoning traditional education for new models. Many are going to charter schools or private schools, but others are going another step beyond and making the leap to online education—over 1.8 million K-12 students already.

The New School does not prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution for education. Americans require a diverse system of innovative approaches—each suited to a family’s needs and spending potential. But with the profusion of online education, school choice, and even a return to alternatives like apprenticeships and on the job training, Americans hold the power to lower costs and improve outcomes from the ground up.

I would advise anyone with a school age child to pick up a copy, it is available in hard cover or on the Kindle. I am reading the Kindle edition in the cloud, so it is available on all my devices: Kindle, iPad, Mac Book or iPhone.

George Rebane

RussS 919pm - There is one problem (at least) with writing off a STEM degree, and that is that we have not put in place yet an educational 'channel' that reliably teaches the language of mathematics that forms the glue of advancing in the sciences and engineering disciplines.

Also, an oft encountered problem in hiring a 'self-taught' techie is that you don't really know what you are getting until after an extended probation, especially if you want him to do something that wasn't on his resume. But there are lots of jobs where experienced 'sans degree' types are needed just to replicate what they did elsewhere. And, of course, there's the 'learn while you earn' paradigm in which we all participated. Finally, it all comes down to the double helix with which you were blessed.

Bill Tozer

I don't have a college degree, but I always wanted one of these to grind my coffee beans. The last one I built ate my homework.



Finally, it all comes down to the double helix with which you were blessed.

Now George....must you bait young Ben "blank slate" Emery with this talk so early on a Saturday?

George Rebane

fish 830am - Actually Mr fish, yes I must. (And I'd appreciate it if you didn't blow my cover so blatantly.)

As long argued here, I support many bases for wealth redistribution, among the foremost being that technology is making millions of workers 'redundant'. It's a systemic problem about which they can do nothing. Transfer payment policies based on the lack of an appropriate double helix for modern times is not acknowledged by socialists who substitute all kinds of cobbled reasons based only on 'greed', 'corruption', 'power', and other things laid at the foot of capitalism and enterprise. Their subsequent public policies wind up as perversions of governance that expand the problem as they justify the need for a more robust and powerful Big Brother.


Morn'n folks....I have to thank RL for the good chuckle I had. I caught his
handiwork in print this morning. ( The "permit")
I guess I'm still in the clear. I'm only painting the interior. I snuck the new doors in, in the dead of night. I reverse engineered the low flow showerheads so they
put out enough to actually get you ya' wet.
I got the good "throwns" stashed under the staircase. ( pre 1.5 gal per flush..... Bet ya' can't do the job in one pull of the handle..!)
So when the County "SS" finishes' jack booting their way through my home with clipboard in hand, I can make the switch.

Then again,, SCREW IT!!! The "fur sale" goes up and let someone else have the problems of crappy renters. Being nice to someone, giving them a break, cutting one some slack because of the "bad economy" came back to bite.
They trashed the place, and turned my property into a grow house. You would think with the oscine profits they were making, they would return it to how they received it.
Yes, I have been busy cleaning up after a few Nev. Co. LIB "small business" types.

Joe Koyote

What role does dwindling taxes play in the rise of education costs where public funding is being replaced by student loans?

Ryan Mount


Rarely do you see rats swimming towards a sinking ship.

We have a primary and secondary school system based on a 19th Century German industrial/assembly line model, which served the proletariat well up to the 1950/60s.

Then the GI Bill sent a lot of people into college to complete their Jedi Training. Then college almost became (well, it did become) an entitlement for all people. Suddenly, working with your hands or in a trade was below everyone.

The artificial demand for college soared. Prices went up. So it is irrelevant* whether that's a lack of funding by the government. The issue is too much fake/hyped demand and a primary and secondary public school system that isn't focused on educating future citizens. And we have teachers (my one complaint about teachers) who spend more time protecting their jobs that fighting to get us out of our 19 Century rut. But that's how the system is setup: assembly line managers/foremans (teachers) care less about quality than making sure the line keeps moving. (again, the Japanese and Germans dispensed with this non-sense years ago)

*Irrelevant because that's NOT how we solve this by funding/subsidizing colleges with mo' money. The issue is a culture one; not everyone should be going to college, which is a good thing. What we need to be doing is properly segmenting the student populations, as many other countries do. It's very ironic that our current school system is based on the 19th Century German model, and they have moved past that and we haven't.

Russ Steele


One of the reasons for the decline in public spending on education is the growing unfunded liabilities that must be paid for. In addition, in California is it is the on going distraction of trying to solve global warming, a non-existing problem that is sucking up million of tax payers dollars, which could be spend on education. The other issus is growing concern of taxpayers over how universities are spending public money.

For example in 2010 the Cal State San Diego eliminated there engineering and computer science programs and instituted a broad range of diversity programs which are explained in an article by Heather Mac Donald, writing in the City Journal Full details HERE.

Not only have diversity sinecures been protected from budget cuts, their numbers are actually growing. The University of California at San Diego, for example, is creating a new full-time “vice chancellor for equity, diversity, and inclusion.” This position would augment UC San Diego’s already massive diversity apparatus, which includes the Chancellor’s Diversity Office, the associate vice chancellor for faculty equity, the assistant vice chancellor for diversity, the faculty equity advisors, the graduate diversity coordinators, the staff diversity liaison, the undergraduate student diversity liaison, the graduate student diversity liaison, the chief diversity officer, the director of development for diversity initiatives, the Office of Academic Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Committee on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Issues, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Campus Council on Climate, Culture and Inclusion, the Diversity Council, and the directors of the Cross-Cultural Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, and the Women’s Center.

Many of the California Universities now have more administrators that instructors. Administrators that can advise students on diversity issues.

It is highly unlikely those students that major in Gender Identity and Cross-Cultural Inclusion will be able to find a job to pay off $90,000 in student loans they have acquired studying something with little value in the job market, except in government.

STEM careers are the only ones that come even close to having salaries to pay off large student loans, and even these students have to be careful as engineers and programers get laid off when the economy tanks. But, in San Diego, they are eliminate those courses and focusing on diversity and sucking up those government sponsored student loans. How sustainable is that?


The ass'y line education model is working worldwide; that it isn't working so well here may have something to do with the apparent fact (thanks to a Federal Dept of Ed study released a decade ago) that, in the USA, the lower a high school student scores on the SAT, the higher the probability they are teaching 10 years after their baccalaureate. The dominant US K-12 monopoly culture has been depreciating the value of knowledge and skills while promoting fuzzy pedagogical processes, and they eat a huge amount of money... the only real reason a BA has become what a high school diploma used to be is that the diploma isn't what it used to be.

Changing K-12 is as big a nut to crack as healthcare, but the special interests are more entrenched and, thanks to the Labor-Electoral Complex (thank Mayor Bloomberg for putting a name to this), virtually untouchable. That beast needs accountability, either by changing the culture from within or starving failure by encouraging real parental choice.

The current need of many online business is trained chimps to crank out Ruby on Rails or whatever the online commerce frameworks du jour happens to be; as soon as that peters out, those folk will be out of favor and out of work. They don't need scientists or engineers, they need technicians, large numbers of them at low wages.

George Rebane

RussS 1202pm - Thanks for pointing out and linking to that educational travesty for which the nation will pay for a long time to come. If ever there was a reason for the Great Divide, the 'Labor-Electoral Complex' is a place to start.

Gregory 1246pm - Spot on.


George, I continue to think, given all K-12 certificated personnel have college degrees, a metric of the average SAT of a school's teachers and administrators could be determined and made public. No individual's SAT should ever be made visible but the average should be a public figure of merit. Imagine the hiring decisions if some actual measure of their academic preparation had an impact on the school's, and the district's, reputation. College GPA is a useless measure, as the college GPA of a CalTech or MIT grad with SAT M+V above 1500 is likely to be lower than a CalState Chico or Humboldt grad with a SAT M+V below 1000.

We need K-12 hiring decisions that actually favor the University of California grads (not to mention CalTech, MIT or any of the Ivys, East or West) over University of Phoenix or National University, the largest single certification mill in California; teacher certifications have done more to drive teacher quality down to a lowest common denominator and to discourage the best qualified.

George Rebane

Gregory 311pm - Agreed. I might want to see the median as the metric, or even a simple histogram of scores that show how low in the barrel the scoop goes. But your point of that particular aggregate metric is both a minimal and meaningful start in getting some parents' dander up.

Russ Steele

George Will has an interesting column on the value of college education and the impact of family and social class on success in life in the Washington Post HERE.

Today, the dominant distinction defining socioeconomic class is between those with and without college degrees. Graduates earn 70 percent more than those with only high school diplomas. In 1980, the difference was just 30 percent.

Soon the crucial distinction will be between those with meaningful college degrees and those with worthless ones. Many colleges are becoming less demanding as they become more expensive: They rake in money — much of it from government-subsidized tuition grants — by taking in many marginally qualified students who are motivated only to acquire a credential and who learn little. My emphasis added

The impact of families is clear . . . . humanity has moved from lives rooted in a remembered past to lives focused on an imagined future. This orientation favors the intellectually nimble. “Who gets ahead, who struggles to keep up, and who gets left behind are now determined primarily by how people cope with the mental challenges of complexity.” And coping skills are incubated in families.


"What we need to be doing is properly segmenting the student populations, as many other countries do. It's very ironic that our current school system is based on the 19th Century German model, and they have moved past that and we haven't." -Ryan

I'd argue that the American model of elementary schools feeding comprehensive high schools is superior... when they work from top to bottom, and a competent vocational component has not been removed from the 2nd half. The German model remains the "assembly line", it's just that they sort out several different lines and start kids down different paths starting in the later elementary years, and the ability to change paths either up, down or sideways is limited by the track (and the school) the student has been assigned.

The California I grew up in kept kids in the schools closest to them and split them according to needs in mid elementary grades. I recall the math tracks in the 4th grade being superior, high average, low average and remedial, but the divisions were fluid. Having problems? Move down a notch, not challenged? Move up a notch.

In the 7th grade, there were more choices. The school suggested programs differentiated by interests (more or less shop, more or less art, more or less music) but the core was pretty similar, with some ability grouping.

High school and the vocational vs academic choices became more pronounced. One could choose a path equivalent to a gymnasium, a trade school, a mix or the bare minimum for graduation, based on desire and qualifications (like a grade of C or better in the prerequisite, or permission of the instructor).

The kid from my elementary school who graduated high school with the highest GPA and highest SAT M was stuck in the low average math track in elementary school but forgave the teacher who did it... it's often hard to tell the difference between boredom and lack of understanding, a key reason late bloomers should be accommodated. In the German model, they might have been shuttled off to a Hauptschule to learn a trade, or maybe a life of working the counter at the DMV.

Gerald Fedor

I find this discussion rather "humorous" as if you look at the UC and Cal system their enrollments are at all times highs, while if you look at the "top" 5 schools (Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Princeton and Yale) they are reporting that their enrollments have dropped by 2-4% in the past 4 years.


If you look at the UC and Cal Systems which shows it's enrollment is at a all time high, as well as the number of non-resident students (which spend much more than in-state residents), and if you consider that these institutions costs have gone up by an average of 37% in the past 6 years.

In the words of "It's the economy, stupid" which James Carville had coined as a campaign strategist while working for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H. W. Bush as people cannot try to justify spending $200,000-375,000 for a four year education (especially when some of these upper echelon schools take 5 years get get all of your classes completed).


Fedor, funny indeed. The link you posted seems to have nothing to do with the point you think you have made. I assume you were referring to this one:

and the "admissions rate" drop isn't a drop in admissions... it's a drop in the percentage of applicants who are admitted. More students applying, not less, for about the same number of slots and the data you chose to make your case is over 3 years old. Hint: when they say "class year", that's going to be four years after the year of the application, as the Class of 2014 was admitted in 2010.

Let me guess... your education wasn't in a math based discipline?


Just to plug some numbers in... Stanford went from an 11% admission rate to 7%. I'm pretty sure that means they went from rejecting 89% of the applicants for the class of 2010 (back in 2006) to rejecting 93% of the applicants for the class of 2014 (who graduated from high school in 2010).

If anything, there was a slight increase in the applications to elite schools as the economy was tanking, possibly because, if you were poor or lower middle income, wealthy schools like Stanford and Harvard are free, if you can get admitted.

Gerald Fedor

Gregory, you're right as I thought I copied the correct link, but this is the information that I garnered for the California State Universities.


Actually, I graduated with my undergraduate work from the number one state Cal University, with a degree in engineering (which I used, and retired with, along with a MBA from Cal).



"the number one state Cal University"...
As long as you bring it up, do you meaning the number one CSU (at least two would probably fight over that designation) or the number one UC (which most would probably peg as the original campus)?

I took a few classes at CSU Los Angeles and in the '70's, they were practically free. Maybe $20 a unit. The drop in enrollments in the subsidized public colleges is a cost savings by the state; you wouldn't want them to chinz on public employee payroll and benefits instead, would you? The five years (or longer) needed to graduate from some colleges due to students being unable to register for required classes is a feature of state schools, not the private colleges, where it is nearly unheard of. Rationing by any other name. One of the big benefits the UC system has is the Regent's and Chancellor's Scholar designations... those lucky kids get to register before everyone else and are essentially guaranteed to get all the classes they need. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others...

Gerald Fedor

I graduated from CPSU with a BS/MS in Aeronautical Engineering in the early 80's, and if I remember correctly my tuition was $235 per quarter. During that time period there were 1,400 applications for that program and they accepted 12....

I remember changing my ethnic ID almost every quarter, and signing up one quarter to be African American. You should have seen the looks in the BSU when this white guy shows up for their scholastic honor society.

It was a wacky world we lived in....


Ben Emery

Here is a progressive show talking about dumbing down America.

Papantonio: Dumbing Down America For Political Gain

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