The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree.In fact, this could even extend to grad schools:
Why not present graduate schools with certifications in microbiology or economics -- and who cares if the applicants passed the exam after studying in the local public library?This is a surefire way of destroying education in this country. You don't go to college primarily for specific job skills, you go for an education. Sure, this system may help some employers:
Certification tests would provide all employers with valuable, trustworthy information about job applicants.But what about employers who are interested in employees that can actually think? Critical, analytical thinking is the most important skill you can get out of college, and for that, nothing is better than a great liberal arts education. It doesn't matter what your major is; in college you should learn how to formulate and critique arguments, a skill will serve you well in almost any job that today's college graduates enter.
This applies even more in graduate school: you can't do my job just by getting certified "after studying in the local public library." Sure, someone who studied that way, and got some lab training, could get all of the background knowledge and technical lab skills that I have. But that person would not be a good scientist - that person would have no ability to come up with new research questions, critically listen to a technical seminar, or make a competent argument in a grant proposal. Luckily, there are graduate schools in Pennsylvania and throughout the rest of the country that offer accelerated and traditional programs to encourage all students to earn a graduate degree.
Maybe the corporate world, as represented by this Wall Street Journal editorialist, really does want a workforce of uneducated, submissive people who just have job skills, but no critical thinking ability. But honestly I doubt it: this editorial is more representative the author's social bias against those snobby Ivy league elites who supposedly don't have any real-world skills:
Certification tests would disadvantage just one set of people: Students who have gotten into well-known traditional schools, but who are coasting through their years in college and would score poorly on a certification test. Disadvantaging them is an outcome devoutly to be wished.It should be obvious that turning one of the world's best educational systems into a vocational training program is a bad idea. Skills become obsolete, people lose their jobs, change careers, and even occasionally need to apply their education to other issues in their lives. A certification lasts only until it expires, but an education endures.