The False God Education, He Makes You Stupid

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on March 13, 2019

About two weeks ago, one of my students sent me a well-written and carefully argued essay. It was also plagiarized. One-hundred percent, from the opening line on. My student had downloaded another student’s paper from the Internet.

Now we learn that a large group of prominent Americans — well-known actresses, business executives, college coaches — have been accused of paying huge sums of money get their children into elite universities. The U.S. attorney for Massachusetts blames “the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth, combined with fraud.”

Why do students cheat? Why do parents commit fraud? Idolatry.

False Worship

Many worship getting a degree. Some, especially the wealthy, worship getting a degree from a “good school.” Their god is status. They believe that god will give them or their children a good job and a good life. If they just give him their soul. And they do.

That’s why the social divide between those who have graduated from college and those who have not is often stark and ugly. Too often, the snobbery associated with college is striking. It is as though a bright line cuts between people who have degrees and those who don’t.

For more on the scandal, see John Zmirak’s Bribe College Admissions Officers? My Parents Wouldn’t Pay for Driver’s Ed

The social divide between those who’ve graduated from college and those who’ve graduated from an elite school can be even starker and uglier. When Sarah Palin ran for vice-president of the United States in 2008, critical writers dismissed her as a hick because she had attended the University of Idaho. They thought she wasn’t smart enough to serve as vice-president because she went to a state university.

Whatever one thinks of Palin, she graduated from a major university with a solid reputation. That it exists in a mountainous western state has nothing to do with its ability to educate its students.

Get a Dirty Job

This was the genius of Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs TV show. He understood that there are all kinds of valuable, well-paying trades and crafts to learn and practice. They are challenging. They make important contributions to our communities. These jobs literally build America. And they offer the dignity of honest, useful work to millions of men and women.

Talk with a skilled tradesman like an electrician or a mechanic. The quantity and intricacy of their knowledge is astounding. They are every bit as intelligent as anyone else. They simply didn’t have the desire or, perhaps, opportunity to get a degree. And they like what they do, and are proud of it. Rightly so.

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As someone who has done a fair amount of hiring over the years, I learned early on not to be impressed by a college name on a resume. I’ve hired graduates of colleges I’d never heard of who have been superb employees. Their talent, intelligence, diligence, creativity, and character were not diminished by not having gone to a major university.

I’ve also worked with people from major universities who can barely think their way to the watercooler. Believing the schools they attended make them superior, they coast along. They are apathetic about excellence and a drag on the team.

The False God

Of course, I’ve hired some great people from top schools and some disappointments from not well known ones. But that’s the point: Where you went has little to nothing to do with the kind of education you received or the kind of person you are.

The biology texts at a small state college in Colorado are likely the same ones you’d read at Princeton. Does the latter have better research resources? Sure. But as to the actual learning that takes place? Troy State University in Missouri is as good a place to read, write and study as Princeton.

The people involved in the college attendance scandal, like my student who stole a paper, worship at the altar of a false god: empty social prestige and the belief that a “name” degree will mean a better job. Sadly, they aren’t really interested in education. They care about income and/or about what other people think more than they care about learning and much more than they care about virtue.

How, in the truest sense, ignorant. Idolatry makes you stupid, even if you have a Harvard degree.

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