Friday, January 23, 2009

Yet Another Education Post

Well, I just wanted to point you to interesting essay about education.

He starts off the essay describing some countries where the university entrance exam has an incredible effect on how the rest of your life goes. And the university you graduated from becomes your credential that affects how you are treated for the rest of your career:

"The use of credentials was an attempt to seal off the direct transmission of power between generations, and cram schools represent that power finding holes in the seal. Cram schools turn wealth in one generation into credentials in the next."

A cram school is a sort of college preparatory school that enables parents with money to drill their kids into getting into a credentialed school. An easy way to transfer power and influence from one generation to another.

But this is not good for society:

"History suggests that, all other things being equal, a society prospers in proportion to its ability to prevent parents from influencing their children's success directly. It's a fine thing for parents to help their children indirectly—for example, by helping them to become smarter or more disciplined, which then makes them more successful. The problem comes when parents use direct methods: when they are able to use their own wealth or power as a substitute for their children's qualities"

But America is ahead of this game (not completely) but especially in my field:

"In a world of small companies, performance is all anyone cares about. People hiring for a startup don't care whether you've even graduated from college, let alone which one. All they care about is what you can do. Which is in fact all that should matter, even in a large organization. The reason credentials have such prestige is that for so long the large organizations in a society tended to be the most powerful. But in the US at least they don't have the monopoly on power they once did, precisely because they can't measure (and thus reward) individual performance. Why spend twenty years climbing the corporate ladder when you can get rewarded directly by the market?"

This is exacerbated in the high-tech world. It is becoming easier and cheaper to start your own software business, and start-ups abound. And largely, its very much merit based. Many large companies still require a college degree, but you can do very well without one. Again, its based on what you can do not what piece of paper you have in your hand.

Another cool thing about our country (and I am ripping this idea off from an article I read a while back but would have a hard time finding now) is that we are literally the land of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. You messed around in high school and didn't get into college. Not a problem. There is always time and opportunity to get a degree, to get educated. And access to university education is getting easier and easier in many important ways.

And this is a good thing. We have a very dynamic economy in this free country of ours and its getting more dynamic all the time.

There are two sides to this coin. Say you worked your tail off to get into an Ivy league school, you expect that once you entered that door, the rest of your life should be smooth sailing. There's still some truth to that.

But, largely, and I think this is a good thing, there is room for many more of us to really, truly excel, and I believe that most of us are more capable than we realize.

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