Today’s economic downturn has blindsided a generation of young people around the globe brought up to believe that a college degree guaranteed them financial prosperity. Whether in the US, China, or in countries in between, graduates from even marquee-name schools are feeling the crunch, prompting many rightly to rethink the value of their education.
In light of the pervasive grim data, some are beginning to ask whether a college degree has been oversold.
Surprisingly, as far back as 1963 that precise question was raised by John Keats in a little noticed book with the apt title of “The Sheepskin Psychosis.” The author concluded that college is merely the most convenient place to learn how to learn. It is not an absolute determinant by any means.
The most recent exponent of this view is Charles Murray. In “Real Education,” which came out last year, he argues that a bachelor’s degree tells an employer nothing except that an applicant has a certain amount of intellectual ability and perseverance.