PDA

View Full Version : Why writing degrees could be worthless



cbscreative
03-26-2012, 04:33 PM
Writers and aspiring writers will find this thread useful and informative, and those who need to hire a writer will gain some beneficial insights since the content directly impacts what you receive when it comes to writing.

Last week, my wife and I had lunch with a freelance writer I hired and her husband. The meeting was not only informative on the project we met to discuss, it helped shed new light on a deficiency I've observed in our education system. Since my oldest daughter is studying both writing and marketing at a business university, and her daughter is dual enrolled taking college writing classes in high school, we had an interesting discussion that I think makes for a good thread here.

Part of my interest in bringing up this topic is the number of job inquiries I get from freelancers who mention their "degree" in some form of writing. I am in no way opposed to the education, but let me be blunt is saying that the degree itself is often worthless. The more I investigate this, the less impressed I become with formal education. It's even possible for the degree to be detrimental. In fairness, I took some writing classes 11 years ago at the same university my daughter attends and found them very useful. My point is, don't rely solely on what they teach you in school.

In the case of my writer's daughter, with her mother being a 20 year veteran writer, she knows a few things. Her daughter wrote a paper but didn't strictly adhere to the "rules" put out by the course and got marked down for it. The "rules" as written resulted in dry, boring results when followed. The instructor even admitted that the paper was better than if the rules had been followed because the rules were designed not for good writing, but for easy grading. I'm glad my writing classes were not structured this way because I find this appalling just like my writer did.

These kinds of courses are not training writers, they're doing something worse than no training at all. Anyone being taught this way has to unlearn all the crap that doesn't work in the real world. After paying thousands of dollars, these students expect to have been taught something they can use, not something designed to streamline the grading process so the instructors don't have to put in as much effort. Are they training students for the workforce or taking shortcuts to crank out education as a commodity?

My advice to writers: Find out what graduates are doing with the education they received from the school you are considering attending. I've seen it both ways. I've seen recent graduates whose writing is impressive, and, I've seen mechanical garbage that obviously got them the grades they need to pass but their diploma is nothing more than a cheap piece of paper that says they followed the rules. I'm sure natural writing ability plays an important part too, but the education system is often seriously overrated.

As for those hiring writers, a degree by itself is a poor measure of quality.

Considering the importance of good writing on business, it's too bad that this section of the forum is not more active, but this should still make for an interesting discussion.

vangogh
03-27-2012, 02:40 AM
I disagree. You get out of a degree what you put into it. You're dealing with a small sample size, which can explain why the people you've spoken to may not have appeared to get value from their degree. I could you point you to plenty of people I know who earned writing degrees and are far better writers than either of us.


don't rely solely on what they teach you in school.

Of course not. That's true of every degree and it's true way beyond school itself. You can't rely on a single opinion or a single book or a single anything.


I've seen recent graduates whose writing is impressive, and, I've seen mechanical garbage

Again that's the people and not the degree itself. There's a huge difference between going to school just to get by and putting in the work to get as much as you can out of the education in front of you. This isn't anything new either. It's been going on since around the time of the first school.

I think you're trying to make general judgements about schools and degrees based on a very small sample size.

SteveM
03-27-2012, 02:29 PM
I think education merely installs the foundation; what is done with it is up to the individual. I wouldn't limit your statement to just "writing degrees", either, because you could apply that logic to any degree. You both have valid points, and when I was teaching aviation physiology at a university, I saw both sides of the coin many times.

How many times have you seen people with MBAs be complete idiots at running companies, while you have college drop-outs build some of the most impressive and successful businesses in the world (i.e. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg)?

Personally, I don't put much stock in diplomas. Just because someone has a degree means nothing to me. I admire people that can take whatever education they have and leverage it into something beneficial. Unfortunately, it is the people with degrees that "require" college degrees for certain positions, and in my mind that requirement stems from the fact that they have to justify their own education.

vangogh
03-27-2012, 03:13 PM
I think education merely installs the foundation; what is done with it is up to the individual.

That's what it comes down to. You can't blame the degree. It's the people who may or may not have earned them that are to blame. That's why I disagree with the subject line of this thread. It's not the degree that's the problem. It's much more likely the person who holds the degree. It's also not fair to characterize all writing degrees, based on observation of a few with the degree or to think those observations apply only to those with writing degrees.


Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg

I know people like pointing to them as reasons you don't need a degree, but none of them are typical. Clearly each is extremely intelligent and had the drive to be successful. The typical person benefits from a degree. Statistics bear out again and again that those with degrees earn much more over their lifetimes and are much more resistant to downturns in the economy than those without degrees.

In the end though it's still down to the individual. You can get an education in more ways than one, however it's always up to you to get that education.

SteveM
03-27-2012, 04:02 PM
I agree with you concerning people earning more with degrees over the course of a lifetime, but is it the education or the piece of paper that opened the door for them?

I suppose at the end of the day it's a moot point, but I have seen brilliance and idiocy from people with and without degrees.

I just feel a college education in and of itself is somewhat over-valued. I've seen national advertisements with unintentionally misspelled words in them in publication - it makes you wonder who the idiot was that wrote that, and who was the bigger idiot that published it? We have everyone from hosts of nationally televised programs to teachers using words out of context and/or making words up. I've worked with physicians who were great at their medical discipline, but couldn't even figure out how to change a lightbulb. I've seen engineers design mechanical systems that were so overly-complicated that no one could figure out how to fix that system, when it could've been designed much simpler and more streamlined.

Maybe we should start an online degree program for Masters of Common Sense!

vangogh
03-27-2012, 05:21 PM
It's probably a little of both. I'd say and I think you'd agree it's the education that's the important part. However I think hiring practices still value the degree, because you can't really get a feel for the education on a resume or in an interview. Fair or not the paper is held up as the proof that you gained the education.

I agree completely that you'll find brilliancy and idiocy from both degreed and non-degreed people. Again it's where my disagreement with the topic of this thread comes from. It's not a writing degree that's worthless, but rather some of the people earning them who are worthless writers. To earn anything you have to meet a minimum standard. There have always been and always will be people who'll find a way to meet that standard through means other than what was meant to actually earn the degree.

Obviously I disagree about college education being over valued. Misspelled words happen. They happen because there's not always money to hire people for that extra round of proofing. They also happen because today's software autocorrects everything, but not always well. I've watched software change words I'm typing as I'm still typing. They can be hard to find since spell checks won't pick them up. Proofing your own words is hard. You have a tendency to read what you meant to type as opposed to what you actually typed. And the cost to proof and get it perfect isn't usually worth it in the minds of publishers. It's not that they're stupid and don't know how to spell and write. It's that the economic realities say it's not worth making things perfect. It's worth more to move on to the next article.


I've worked with physicians who were great at their medical discipline, but couldn't even figure out how to change a lightbulb.

So? I've never paid a doctor to change a lightbulb. They went to school to learn medicine. How many people without a medical degree would you let operate on you?


I've seen engineers design mechanical systems that were so overly-complicated that no one could figure out how to fix that system, when it could've been designed much simpler and more streamlined.

Careful. I have an engineering degree. :) The problem there though isn't that they don't know engineering. It's that they don't know about design. It's a separate course of study. I can tell you having gone through a program in engineering that there was little time for any classes outside of the major unless you were willing to go through another year or two of school. Many of the people I went to school with couldn't write a complete or coherent sentence to save their lives. That doesn't mean they aren't capable engineers. I'd agree that the program should have offered more courses in English and writing, however there's a limit to how much you can learn and teach over the course of a 4 year degree.

You can't blame the degree for not teaching the person everything they could or should know. It's not the fault of medical school that a doctor can't change a lightbulb. It's not the fault of an engineering school that an engineer doesn't understand design. It's unfair to say that because someone doesn't know everything or that because they make mistakes any degree they earned was worthless.

SteveM
03-27-2012, 06:36 PM
Okay, okay - I should have said SOME DEGREES are over-valued. True education is not.

I still feel education, especially higher education, should be more holistic and less linnear. It should ingrain the ability to think and reason, and not just perform open-heart surgery or design/engineer a fuel injection system with zero knowledge of how to perform other simple functions in life, or at least communicate like an educated individual.

A biology professor told me a story one time about his student writing a thesis for his PhD on human reproduction. His paper was brilliant, following the path of sperm cells from generation through the various tubes and canals of the male and female reproductive organs, and ending up fertilizing the female's egg. Once his paper was graded, a perfect score no less, the student had one question for the professor--"One thing that puzzles me & I never quite figured out is how the sperm cells get transfered from the male to the female."

I rest my case.

billbenson
03-27-2012, 10:28 PM
IMO education teaches you how to learn. I never needed the calculus from college, but the learning skills college taught me have helped me learn new important things through life. Including web marketing which didn't exist when I was in college.

vangogh
03-28-2012, 12:46 PM
I still feel education, especially higher education, should be more holistic and less linnear.

I agree. I thought that when I was in school and I still think it now. I also think it's easier said than accomplished. There are some courses of study that require so much specialized classes there simply isn't enough room for classes outside the major. I wish it didn't have to be that way, but when you consider the cost and the extra time involved it's probably hard for anyone to justify.

When I was in school I thought it would be better for all students to spend the first 2 years of their 4 year degree solely taking liberal arts and general studies classes. Then they'd take all or nearly all classes the last 2 years directly in their major. I don't think that works since for some majors there are courses where you need to build up to over more than 2 years.


IMO education teaches you how to learn.

I agree. There are some classes where the specific of what you learn is close to what you'll do once out of school, but much of it is becoming better and learning how to learn after. We all have to continue to learn new information through our entire lives. No schools is going to teach you everything you need to know. I know I'm a better student on my own having gone to college than I would have been had I not known.

cbscreative
03-29-2012, 06:49 PM
I think you're trying to make general judgements about schools and degrees based on a very small sample size.

I would agree that my sample size is small compared to an advanced study, but it's probably a lot larger than you seem to be assuming. My example is a limited sample, but it leads me to wonder how many writing courses use this type of approach. My observations of the effects are much less limited.

I thought I wrote a balanced post so I'm surprised by such avid disagreement. The comment about disagreeing with the title is especially intriguing. I didn't claim a degree is worthless, only that it could be. I don't see anyone here truly disagreeing with that fact. Like Steve said, it's not just writing degrees either, that's only the example I used, and you're certainly right about this problem going back to the first school. We live in an age and culture though where education is practically worshiped and often given more merit than it earns.

Because of the way hiring decisions are made in the business world, I would have a degree if I were looking for a job. I have as much of a degree as I need in my situation. I took all the classes that pertain to my business and then some. All I needed to earn the piece of paper was irrelevant gag me classes that universities like to torture students with, and collect tuition money for, before they will admit you're worthy of holding one of their diplomas. Since these classes lacked any value for me other than the ego boost I could gain by completing them, there was no priority for me to keep paying. My boss (me) didn't require a degree so my situation was different. If I feel I need to or there would be some benefit, I can always return or take more classes.

Since this thread is more about hiring writers, particularly as a small business, I've found the degree to be rather unreliable. That doesn't mean education isn't important, good writing requires it. But in keeping with the intent of my OP, some teaching techniques actually have to be unlearned to be a good writer in the business world. And yes, that principle applies to a lot more than just writing. We could probably fill pages with posts about know it all graduates who enter the field thinking their degree makes them hot stuff and those with real world experience shake their heads wondering how the schools can get away with charging money to teach nonsense.

billbenson
03-29-2012, 09:41 PM
All I needed to earn the piece of paper was irrelevant gag me classes that universities like to torture students with, and collect tuition money for, before they will admit you're worthy of holding one of their diplomas.

Out of curiosity, what were the gag me classes?

vangogh
03-30-2012, 03:19 PM
I thought I wrote a balanced post

It came across to me more like you were trying to put down the value of going to school to get a degree in writing. I know you say a couple of things that aren't negative, but the intensity of the negativity toward the degree is a lot more than anything positive. Overall I thought there were more negative statements and that the language used on the negative side was a lot stronger than anything used on the positive side.

My bad if that wasn't the case, but that's how it came across to me.


(sample size is) probably a lot larger than you seem to be assuming.

Not really. I don't mean that your sample size is one or two, but I guarantee you haven't come close to meeting even a fraction of 1% of all the people who've graduated with a writing degree in just the few last years. You're using personal stories of people you've met to provide proof. Those are simply anecdotes. They're going to be biased to the kind of people you associate with. I can equally share stories of people I know who earned writing degrees and write far better than either of us and most of the population. My stories would carry just as much bias as yours.


We live in an age and culture though where education is practically worshiped and often given more merit than it earns.

Not at all. Education deserves more merit than it gets. You can argue that the educational system could be better, but are you seriously implying education is not worthwhile? Seriously? I think it's frightening that some people believe education itself could possibly be bad. You can certainly argue against the quality of education people might receive, but to argue against education in general is truly frightening.


All I needed to earn the piece of paper was irrelevant gag me classes that universities like to torture students with, and collect tuition money for, before they will admit you're worthy of holding one of their diplomas.

Not exactly a balanced statement.

Dan Furman
04-01-2012, 02:00 AM
Not a fan of any kind of formal education on the "copywriter" level. I agree that education can help someone be a better writer, but in my mind, you are either a copywriter, or you aren't. You can learn to write better - you can't "learn" to be a copywriter. Plus, like has been pointed out, the "rules" of writing make for crappy writing. Good business writing breaks all kinds of rules.

In terms of this forum being more active, sadly, everyone "says" copywriting is important. But few actually believe it.

vangogh
04-02-2012, 11:45 AM
I had a feeling you might not be a fan of the formal education route Dan, though I think you agree that education in general is important, whether it's in school or self learning. I disagree that copywriting can't be taught or learned though. I'd agree that some people have more talent for it than others. The same can be said of most any profession of skill. They can all be taught and learned. Maybe you can't take someone with no copywriting skills and turn that person into a successful copywriter, but I think anyone can be taught or learn to be better.


everyone "says" copywriting is important. But few actually believe it.

I think there's something else also at play. Most people can write. Few can write well. And fewer still can write copy well. However since most people can all type a string of words together they don't think they need more than that. When it comes to hiring someone they don't see the need since they can form sentences. Similarly when it comes to putting in the time to learn more. The same thing happens with design

KristineS
04-02-2012, 03:05 PM
I've known a lot of idiots with advanced degrees. I've also known a lot of idiots without advanced degrees. I think, in general, education is a good thing. I think it's very necessary for some professions. Is a degree going to necessarily make you a great writer? Probably not. Is it going to make you a better writer? Maybe.

I also think, and this is mostly from my personal experience, that college educations really should start when people are older. I went to college the first time right out of high school. I ended up dropping out for a lot of reasons, some family related, some just that I didn't know what I wanted to do. A few years later, when I was working full time, I went back to school at night and eventually ended up obtaining two degrees. I won't say it was easy, but the courses were taught by professionals in their fields, not tenured professors, and the classes were more varied in age. It was a great learning environment and I took a lot more away from it.

In the end I think it's about finding the learning environment and situation that fits you, while also understanding that you may have to jump through the hoop of obtaining a degree to participate in a profession that appeals to you. I also think learning should be a life long thing. I still learn new things and improve my skills every day. That's part of the fun.

cbscreative
04-02-2012, 03:29 PM
I think Dan has expressed the best grasp of what I was trying to accomplish, and one reason I chose writing as the topic of discussion. I'm not against education, but it does often have a dark side. If the principles being taught have to be unlearned, then I call that wasteful. That's not the same thing as saying education is bad, to me it's just simply acknowledging that education is not automatically good. The assumption that education is inherently good is scary too.

Take this for what it's worth, but I view education (or knowledge) and wisdom (or intelligence) as being completely and radically different. You can be highly educated, but knowledge does not equal intelligence. I personally do not believe intelligence can be taught. Educate a determined fool and you have an educated fool, but still a fool. I do believe that foolishness is curable, but education alone will not provide the cure. Good education will definitely help, so I'm not knocking the value of education, just making a point.

Whether "anyone" can be taught to be a good writer is an interesting point to ponder, and I'm not completely sure one way or the other. I lean toward "no" though. Perhaps most people could be taught, but even that would be hard to prove.

As for my post coming off as being too negative, I was simply relying on my reputation here that you would all know me better than that. For the benefit of the newer members and drive by observers, I'm glad you countered some of my points. Since both of my college age daughters are in school and one of them will be graduating this month, either I'm not anti-education or I'm a hypocrite for allowing them to go to school. I vote that I'm not a hypocrite.

I can't answer the question in detail about what the gag me classes were since I don't have the list any more, but I know one was Statistics and I recall I had to take some general electives with choices such as World Religions on the list. I'm not against those subjects, but if I need statistics, I'll hire it out because I find it torturous. In the same way I enjoy writing while other people despise it, I feel the same way about math. My time is best spent doing what I enjoy and am good at. Since God gave others interests and talents I don't have, I'm thankful for that.

I probably would have enjoyed the class on world religions, but it's a subject I can study on my own. In fact, I'm very knowledgeable on the subject; probably more so than most people. But to be forced to pay over a thousand dollars plus books is something I find objectionable. Keep in mind I speak from my own personal priorities. I don't feel I need these to run my business. If I really wanted the degree I would have to play by their rules. Fortunately for me, I didn't need it that bad.

cbscreative
04-02-2012, 03:35 PM
I won't say it was easy, but the courses were taught by professionals in their fields, not tenured professors, and the classes were more varied in age. It was a great learning environment and I took a lot more away from it.

That was my experience as well even though I did not pursue the degree. I went in the evening with classes taught by people who worked what they taught. Some instructors were full time staff, but most in evening classes were not. The students were mostly older too, and were genuinely there to learn. I think this made a huge difference. All too often, the "book knowledge" being taught by instructors who only teach and never worked in the actual field is part of the problem I was getting at.

billbenson
04-02-2012, 07:22 PM
Its also worth mentioning that not every 18 y/o is that mature. College or even the military can provide some maturing time while learning. Even if they are learning things that they won't use, part of education is learning how to learn.

Many professors in school have been teaching for years. Specifically for writing degrees or courses, it wouldn't surprise me if they have no idea how to write for the internet which I believe is really being discussed here. They learned their craft prior to the internet and I doubt most are internet savvy.

Funny you mentioned statistics. I had a lousy statistics instructor in college. It is one subject I would like to have a better grasp of. I'm interested in stock options. Math and statistics are important for many types of stock analysis. Most people invest in stocks without have a good knowledge of the statistical indicators.

cbscreative
04-02-2012, 10:09 PM
Many professors in school have been teaching for years. Specifically for writing degrees or courses, it wouldn't surprise me if they have no idea how to write for the internet which I believe is really being discussed here. They learned their craft prior to the internet and I doubt most are internet savvy.

Although it would be unfair to say that's true in every case, or perhaps even most, there is a great deal of truth there and it is directly relevant to my point.

You also raised a good point about the 18 year olds which college classes were traditionally designed for. Maybe the real problem is a slow adaption to the modern day students. They've not necessarily adjusted their requirements to meet changing needs. The system they use could be very well suited to some while inadequate for others. In my own experience, it was beneficial to the point I reached, then became irrelevant. Someone without life experience may have a tough time discerning the difference.

vangogh
04-03-2012, 01:00 PM
I'm not against education, but it does often have a dark side.

It sure sounds like you're against it. There's no dark side to education. You're trying to lump together a couple of different things. A bad class or a bad student does not mean education in general is bad or has a dark side. You're trying to make some very broad statements based on a very small sample of cases. That's not fair.

Education is always better than the alternative, which is ignorance. Are you suggesting we'd all be better off going through life and making decisions based on little to no information?


Educate a determined fool and you have an educated fool, but still a fool.

Actually through education you quite often help the fool understand why he's being a fool resulting in one less fool in the world. Sure there are some people who will always be fools, but it has nothing to do with how educated or uneducated they are. To suggest that education is bad because some people aren't willing to learn is again unfair.

Education is about acquiring knowledge and developing your ability to reason and make judgements. That is always a good thing.

If you want to argue that a certain class is bad because it isn't effectively teaching that's fine. If you want to say the same about an entire university that's fine too. You could even argue it about the entire school system in the country if you wanted. I'd disagree with you, but you could certainly make the argument. But to say that education in general is bad is a ridiculous notion. If you're saying that education is bad you're implying that ignorance is preferred.

Do people need to go to a university and get a formal college education? Not at all. I think most people would be better offer if they did, but they don't have to. I'm not arguing that everyone needs to get a college degree. However everyone absolutely needs to continue gaining education throughout their lives. The means by which that education is gained can vary, but the necessity for education doesn't.

ReganP
04-03-2012, 05:35 PM
When I was in school I thought it would be better for all students to spend the first 2 years of their 4 year degree solely taking liberal arts and general studies classes. Then they'd take all or nearly all classes the last 2 years directly in their major.

Yes, yes to this! I am a recent graduate (May 2011) and I wholeheartedly wish I had done this. Thanks to AP tests and some community college classes I took during my summers in high school, I graduated in 3 years and I didn't get to take as many general studies/random classes as I would've liked.

I ended up majoring in multimedia journalism because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do and by the time I decided journalism was not it I was so close to graduating that I thought it was too late. But, there were only 3 journalism classes that I took that I actually felt like I learned anything in! All of the classes that I enjoyed the most and felt like I really got something out of were the classes outside of my major.

If I could do it again I definitely would've taken a broader range of classes, picked my major later, and not graduated early. I feel like I would've gotten so much more out of my education that way because I spent my time doing exactly what cbscreative said, tailoring my writing assignments to get A's instead of learning about how to learn and think critically.

cbscreative
04-03-2012, 07:53 PM
But to say that education in general is bad is a ridiculous notion.

Good thing I never said that. I certainly never meant to imply it in any way either.

I chose not to elaborate on my "dark side" comment because I didn't want to derail the thread, but education can most definitely have a dark side. To assume that all education is automatically good ignores the fact that civilizations throughout history have fallen into ruin with the support of their educational systems.

My points are more about questioning what is being taught and how it's being taught with the intention of having a beneficial discussion. Any impression that there is something wrong with education itself is not what I meant for anyone to get out of this.

Dan Furman
04-04-2012, 12:48 AM
I think there's something else also at play. Most people can write. Few can write well. And fewer still can write copy well. However since most people can all type a string of words together they don't think they need more than that. When it comes to hiring someone they don't see the need since they can form sentences. Similarly when it comes to putting in the time to learn more. The same thing happens with design

And even if they do hire someone, it turns into "well, it's just writing" :)

vangogh
04-04-2012, 12:31 PM
All of the classes that I enjoyed the most and felt like I really got something out of were the classes outside of my major.

That happens. Sounds like you picked the wrong major. I bet in time you'll find you do end up appreciating more of the classes you took and even find they help you in some way.


Good thing I never said that. I certainly never meant to imply it in any way either.

You haven't said it directly, but I think you've been implying it. I haven't seen you say much positive about education. You're mostly sharing stories about how education can be negative. It seems like you're much more focused on the negatives of education. I also think you're using the word education when you really mean the educational system.

My bad if I'm reading more into what you're saying than you're actually saying, but that's how it's been coming across to me. I get the feeling your main point in this thread is to encourage people not to go to school. Again my bad if I'm reading more into what you're saying.

@Dan - Ain't it the truth. I think part of it is a lack of education about the value of writing or design or whatever.

cbscreative
04-04-2012, 09:25 PM
My bad if I'm reading more into what you're saying than you're actually saying, but that's how it's been coming across to me. I get the feeling your main point in this thread is to encourage people not to go to school. Again my bad if I'm reading more into what you're saying.

Your earliest posts suggest the possibility that my title caused you to form an immediate impression and perhaps you read my statements filtered by that impression. It was intended to be attention getting and thought provoking. Perhaps I underestimated how an immediate emotional response to the topic might taint my intentions. If so, it's not the first time, but I wasn't worried about being controversial.

To encourage people not to go to school though, the idea of leaving that impression wasn't even on my radar since it would be ridiculous. I even stated in the OP that, "I am in no way opposed to the education."

I wasn't really attempting to address the merits of school (though I thought I was including enough positives to be clear on my intent). I figured the merits were a given and focused more on questioning certain aspects of the educational system.

vangogh
04-05-2012, 12:55 PM
The thing with the title of the thread is you chose to use the word worthless. I realize you said "could be" which to you probably suggests balance, but it really doesn't. The only reason to write the title that way is because you specifically wanted to point out the negatives of a writing degree. A balanced title would have been something like "Do you think writing degrees are worthwhile?" or "What's the value of a writing degree?" Your title frames the conversation with the word worthless and clearly indicates your views and the direction you expect the thread to take.


I wasn't really attempting to address the merits of school

Exactly. That's why the whole conversation is framed to the negative side. That's not being fair and balanced, even if you occasionally drop in a positive. Maybe it wasn't your intent, but your posts did come across being negative toward education. When I tried to make the distinction between education and the educational system you didn't seem to make the distinction with me, suggesting the negative views were also about education in general.

Again if none of that was your intention, my bad, but I wanted to point out why it came across that way to me.

I think education in general, acquiring knowledge and learning to make better judgements and decisions is as important as anything for all of us to lead better lives and have better careers and businesses. Learning from our experience and the experience of others is vital to our survival. Our capacity for learning is what separates us from all other species. Education is what we're all about and what drives us forward. Without education you and I are not having a conversation in an agreed upon language. We're not typing away on computer keyboards or using software designed for us to have this conversation.

I think it's fair to debate the merits of the current educational system in the US or any country. It's fair to question the value of a degree. However all statistics show that people who earn degrees make more money over their lives than people without degrees. From a purely ROI perspective getting a degree is worthwhile. That doesn't mean everyone needs one or you can't be successful without one. There are plenty of people who do better learning in a less formal environment than a formal one. I actually prefer learning things on my own outside of a formal education, but that doesn't mean I think formal education isn't valuable. And again the statistics have consistently shown for years that on average getting a degree will lead to more money over your lifetime than not getting one.

I have degrees and I don't use those degrees as part of my daily work work life. Some might say that means those degrees are worthless, but I would highly disagree. I learned a lot of things in school I never would have been exposed to otherwise. One off classes I took interested me in subjects I later pursued and learned more about. There are courses that while I don't use the specific information, still taught me plenty of skills I do use. Science and engineering courses that helped teach me to be analytical and be a problem solver. History and English courses that taught helped me become a better writer.

Again not everyone needs to get a degree. There are plenty of examples of people who do well without one and plenty of people who do poorly with one. The numbers show that the majority of us would be better off getting a degree. A few examples showing the "dark side" does nothing to refute the statistics.

cbscreative
04-06-2012, 02:47 PM
A balanced title would have been something like "Do you think writing degrees are worthwhile?" or "What's the value of a writing degree?" Your title frames the conversation with the word worthless and clearly indicates your views and the direction you expect the thread to take.

I see your point, but it's simply a difference in the way we both think. To me, those title examples aren't any better. Asking if they are worthwhile could be calling them into question across the board, therefore leaving the exact same impression you got in my way of thinking. I was simply illustrating ways that education could be counter productive. I think it's now been well established that was not to deride education itself.

billbenson
04-06-2012, 03:52 PM
I was simply illustrating ways that education could be counter productive

I don't know that I even agree with that. I learned php from a dummies book 12 years ago. It taught me some very bad habits, but then one of the beauties of php is that bad code still works, its just far less efficient. I have learned that there are better ways to do things and studied those and applied them to my coding practices.

Someone in a college writing class may get obsolete ways of writing, but it probably also gives someone a base to start / learn from unless they come away from college feeling that what they learned is the only way. Not to many college students are that naive.

cbscreative
04-09-2012, 02:42 PM
Bill, your point reminds me that quite often the failure of education could be blamed on the student. Many of us have probably worked in situations where a hot shot graduate gets hired in and thinks he/she knows it all because he/she earned his/her degree. In those cases, I wouldn't call it naive, naivety can be fixed; arrogance is much harder to cure and education can serve to make it worse.

WisemanSays
04-15-2012, 08:07 PM
Degrees have definitely lost some of their "selling power," as I would put it. Until the last decade or so, those with degrees were looked at in high regard. Those without, not so much. Over the last decade, I think our society is beginning to realize it's not what title you hold, but the actions that you make with or without said title.

Then again, this is coming from a Journalism Major dropout who chose an opportunity to get loads of experience rather than sit in a classroom.

cbscreative
04-16-2012, 12:48 PM
Then again, this is coming from a Journalism Major dropout who chose an opportunity to get loads of experience rather than sit in a classroom.

I think our personal preferences and experiences have a lot to do with how we perceive education. Your point about the value of a degree changing over the past decade or so is probably pretty accurate in a lot of ways, but I think it's just as much the students as the education. Those who attended school a couple decades ago or more are likely to have a totally different perspective than those who have attended more recently.

The problem with students not taking college as seriously as they should when starting immediately after high school is nothing new, but it does appear to me to be significantly worse. Considering the statistics regarding the quality of a high school education in recent years, I guess the low quality of college students now shouldn't be too surprising. My daughters have had their share of frustration because some of the college classes have to teach the things high school students should already know, so the classes are "dumbed down" to accommodate students who are preprogrammed to slack off like it's high school.

My experience was night classes with mostly older students, so I didn't have to endure that type of setting. Most of my instructors were people who did what they taught in the real world during the day. This certainly had a positive effect on the quality of education I received. It was also within the past decade (my final classes were ending about this time 6 years ago), so my perspective is still from the recent state of the education system.

Every once in a while, I did get some inside info from students who took most of their classes during the day, and it was enlightening. It was for them too when they experienced the difference. Some of my instructors did teach during the day, and though they didn't reveal too much because it would be inappropriate, I do know they enjoyed their daytime teaching much less. I recall one event where the instructor had to flunk the entire class on a particular test, and it was the same one our night class took and most of us aced it. She was visibly annoyed by the day class over that assignment.

I'm with you on preferring the real life experience, but it's important to note that I also have enough life experience to know what I'm willing to pay to learn and what I would rather not be forced into just because the degree requires it.

queenvictoria
04-26-2012, 05:31 PM
This is true in most business positions, not just writing degrees. One could say that you don't really need to go to school in order to learn how to manage a business. Let's be honest, most people who have degrees still have to look up stuff about their profession constantly. Academia simply highlights what the industry is looking for and ways to meet those demands.

Writing is especially bad because many companies aren't really concerned with high quality writing, but writing that is passable and highlights anchor text appropriately. One may think that a lot of these writers with college degrees are no better than their uneducated competition, and that the fact that they have a fancy piece of paper that somehow entitles them to more money. It's debatable whether or not a writer with a degree should be paid more just because of the fact, but the conflict lies in what is considered a good copywriter.

Unfortunately as a writer (with a degree) I may have to agree that a degree in writing is simply a piece of paper that states 'pay me more'. Quality writing is quality writing, period. Whether one needs a degree or not in order to accomplish this is irrelevant. I don't think anybody here is devaluing education, but having studied an area thoroughly does not always translate into success in the business world.

Writing can be learned, as can the rules of business; either through education or on the job training. Formal education in writing, just like any art form is usually pursued because the person enjoys writing, not because they think they will burst into the business world as the next big copywriter.

Jsaddington
09-04-2012, 12:28 PM
I actually agree - to a point. I'm a website copy writer, and also produce articles for offline content. I don't have a degree in writing or English, but I cut my teeth in industry and the sales world. I also read a lot, not high brow material, but well written novels and science magazines. Nowadays I spend a lot of time reworking material produced by people with degrees because they have learned a particular style of writing, and it really doesn't work for short pieces of sales copy which is in fact what most business writing is. This includes commercial websites. That said, an good understanding of language, grammar and syntax is essential to all good writing and an writing degree would provide a great foundation, but it's just that, a start. I would be more impressed with someone who produced a 200 word flyer and was able to say "This piece of copy increased sales by 50%". At the end of the day, in business that's what really counts.

KristineS
09-04-2012, 01:14 PM
I have to confess, I got my degrees because I figured it would make me more employable and get me to a higher pay level. Most of what I do, I either knew how to do before I got the degrees or a learned after I had my job and the marketing landscape changed. Getting my degrees and attending classes did help me learn discipline and did encourage critical thinking and some of my classes were very interesting, but I'm not sure I'm a better employee or better at my job because of what I learned in college.

On the other hand, I love learning stuff just for the sake of it. There's a Masters Degree in Humanities that one of the local colleges offers and I so want to enter the program just because the subject matter sounds cool. The problem is that the practical side of me says that spending that much money and time to get a degree that essentially is about film and books and history probably isn't a good decision economically. It's too bad that education often becomes mixed up with money and not with the idea that becoming educated and being exposed to new ideas is a good thing.