One of the more positive fallouts from the growing attention to the student debt crisis is the focus on the underlying issue, the high cost of college education. The price tag faced by the Millennial and Gen Z generations simply does not compare to the experience of their elders, as college costs have risen at a pace far outstripping wage growth and even ordinary inflation.
One response has been a backlash against the “paper ceiling” i.e., demanding a four-year degree to perform job tasks that quite objectively do not require such a pre-requisite. Certainly, at an individual level this is a welcome change. However, I am skeptical that at a macro level this is really the direction we should be going as a country. In an increasingly complex 21st century world, “Let’s educate our people less” said no nation ever. The “paper ceiling” argument also puts college on the same footing as vocational school. It presumes that the solitary purpose of attending university is to gather technical skills and not, for example, to learn how to think critically, write coherently or understand how past history and other cultures inform why the world is how it is today. But this is a story for another day…
Today, my plea is to stop telling me where you went to school. How many times have you listened to a speaker being introduced at a conference or as a podcast guest with a long recitation of their resume that specifically highlights which school they attended? Worse yet, when the host or emcee gushes when it is a name-brand Ivy League school. Or when someone casually mentions that so-and-so must be smart/competent/worthy of our attention because, after all, s/he went to Harvard? (Need I remind you that Ted Cruz is a Princeton and Harvard graduate? ‘Nuff said.)
Here’s my point: We cannot with one hand say that the solution to the college affordability crisis it to go to community college and public university, while simultaneously continuing to lionize those who chose an expensive “A-Brand” school. What message does it send to the graduate of Miscellaneous State University when they hear someone jokingly introduced to an audience with, “Jane Doe graduated from Highly Touted Ivy League University, so you know she knows her stuff!”?
So here’s my plea: If you are the host of a podcast or a radio show, or you are introducing a speaker at an event, leave out the name of their school. The person is there because of their demonstrated expertise and talent, not because they went to a certain school.
Either we believe that a college education is valuable from whatever source, or we don’t. And if we do believe that, then we need to act like it.