Students Need Love not Degrees


Right now everyone is focused on eliminating college debt, but why? That still won’t change the fact that people I know who have masters degrees and PhDs are struggling to stay employed and pay the bills. Two days ago, I came across an article written by Margaret Rhodes about four radical ideas Stanford’s d.school believe could reinvent college:

  • Lose the 4-year degree
  • Lose the high school to college model
  • Lose the transcript
  • Lose the college major

In the article, Margaret Rhodes explains how Stanford’s d.school came up with these ideas and how they could completely reinvent the way we look at college. The ideas I took away were the timelines we place on education and how we share our educational accomplishments.

Everyone is taught to go to college, graduate, get a job, start a family, and start paying taxes. Follow this formula and we are guaranteed to be happy and successful but I am sure anyone reading this is immediately thinking of exceptions to that logic. In the article the recommendation is to make the 4-year degree a 6-year degree but I would make the argument for a 10-year degree. I have always been late the party but who says you feel confident in your educational accomplishments when you are 25 or 26 years old? What if we earned our degree when we are 32 which seems to be close to the average age my friends have been starting families.

Also random thought, why do we call it “earning a degree?” That seems to focus on the fact we are paying for our degree instead of learning. It goes back to another major theme in the article that our 800 year old system needs to be completely reinvented.

The other takeaway is how we share our accomplishments. Stein Greenberg from the d.school sums this up by saying:

“We now live in a world where you can get any piece of information at any time. What if it wasn’t about information accumulation, but about developing competencies and skills,”…“What if a transcript could be as unique as a fingerprint and really show and emphasize the skills you have going forward?”

Artists and athletes have always enjoyed  the purest and most authentic accreditation process ever created. I don’t care where Claude Monet or Paul Cezanne learned how to paint. I just love their work and believe them to be some of the greatest painters to ever live. I don’t care that Lebron James or Koby Bryant didn’t go to college. They are two of the greatest basketball players ever. Artists and athletes are judged on their actions and accomplishments. So why can’t we do that for every college graduate in the world? I don’t mean to disparage anyone with a degree but let’s be honest, what does a degree tell us? It is proof that I paid an institution a lot of money so I could learn various topics, most of which were chosen for me, and then pass a bunch of tests. When I graduated though, I didn’t know how to raise a child, pay my mortgage, network, or live in the real world. What if instead of a degree we helped students figure out how to create portfolios that reflected their life’s work and accomplishments, just like an artist’s painting? If you don’t like a painting, the artist is not paid and may not be able to pay rent, that is just reality. If I don’t like a student’s portfolio, I may not hire her/him but that just means the student knows what needs to be improved so she/he can go back to the chalk board to update the portfolio and try again.

Learning is iterative and lifelong. We must treat it as a such instead of trying to cram it into boxes and folders that have been collecting dust for 800 years.

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