Con games and their discontents

I’ve been reading a bit about avoiding college and graduate education because more and more it turns out to be a scam. Graduate education here includes law and business school. Medical schools more and more appears to be trade schools. Engineering is real; hard science is real. But, to repeat the title of a song from an off-Broadway musical, what do you do with a B.A. in English?

Answer: either get an M.A. and maybe a Ph.D. or just take jobs in K-Mart and WalMart. And/or, as it turns out. Doctors used to get educated by interning with a practicing M.D. Lawyers (including Abraham Lincoln and Clarence Darrow) “read law” with a practitioner before sitting for their state’s Bar exam. Nobody ever complained about Lincoln’s or Darrow’s expertise, did they? Then, in 1910, Abraham Flexner published a report on medical education in the U.S. that overturned the extern system of medical education. In many cases it helped established necessary standards of competence, but I’d guess that in many cases the new standards compressed medical training, imperfect as it was, and in a generation created a bureaucratic and technocratic standard that denied medical training to otherwise motivated and competent aspirants. I’ve read a lot of the Flexner report (it’s online as a PDF) and it’s all but unreadable. Someone should have taught Abe Flexner how to write.

What do you do with a graduate degree? Damned if I know.

We have an entire generation of college and graduate students who come out with degrees and no way to make a living in their fields. How many students of even prestigious colleges and law schools can’t get a job? How many B-school students can’t get into the lower rungs of the business career ladder? A lot of people despise lawyers; I know I do. And, given my history with the law, probably with good reason.

Am I advising anyone? No, I can’t give advice from a perspective of bitterness as a Ph.D. living in public housing in a declasse city in central New Jersey. Woulda shoulda coulda. All I can say is that you might want to reconsider what you’re going to do when you get out of high school or college, before you run up an ocean of Sallie Mae debt. It gets old and tiresome PDQ. That’s an acronym that means Pretty Damn Quick.

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