Arnold Kling  

A View from Yale

Bok's Economics of Education... My Optimisms and Pessimisms...

A reader points me to an article by a Yale student. The author is troubled when she hears that 25 percent of Yale graduates who have jobs are in consulting.

But Annie and Jeff weren't the only two students I spoke with that prescribed to this notion of the private sector as a kind of training ground.

So much for subscribing to the notion that Yale students have superior command of the English language.

I want to watch Shloe's movies and I want to see Mark's musicals and I want to volunteer with Joe's non-profit and eat at Annie's restaurant and send my kids to schools Jeff's reformed and I'm JUST SCARED about this industry that's taking all my friends and telling them this is the best way for them to be spending their time.

I am scared, also, but more for the consulting industry than for her friends.

But the main point I would like to make about the article (it's long and quite interesting) is that it is hard to find anything that a Yale degree does prepare a student for. I doubt that students know anything more than when they came in about running a no-profit or a restaurant, or about management consulting for that matter. I imagine that many students are now better prepared to take more classes, say, in law school or graduate school. And perhaps that is where most of them are actually going.

The author is concerned about students wasting a few years of their lives doing management consulting. If wasting years is the issue, then I wonder if her concern should instead be with the years spent at Yale.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (18 to date)
AMW writes:

Why all the Yale hating?

Thucydides writes:

The rather rambling article by the Yale student is filled with worries that she and her friends will not find some employment which perfectly fulfills their fantasies of self-expression. It does not occur to her that employers might be interested in hiring people to accomplish their business objectives, rather than help out with expressive needs or wishes of the hiree, or if it does occur to her, she deplores it.

This is by no means a situation limited to Yale, but reflects the fact that these students have been nurtured in unreal expectations. It is pretty clear that whatever they have done to get an education, it hasn't given them much of a grounding in reality.

Once she is out and goes to work, she will likely come around to more sensible views. There are many interesting kinds of work beyond, film, environment, sustainable food, and the other clicheed interests they picked up in the academic hothouse.

Jgreen writes:

If wasting years is the issue, I wonder if the people on this list are concerned with the years they "wasted" at Yale:

Dewey Munson writes:

When it comes to rewarding income Yale students already have Mom and Dad.
Hard to surpass that.
Meanwhile Yale is one of the best employers around so helping kids reach success is in itself rewarding

Maximum Liberty writes:

All by itself, this quote makes me subscribe to the signalling theory of education:

"I want a job in general and I don’t really know how to get a job. This is easy to apply for and would make me a lot of money."


Brad Warbiany writes:

If college is an investment in ones' future, wouldn't going into heavy debt for a degree at an Ivy League in order to become an "indie music celebrity" the equivalent of buying shares in

Michael writes:

I happen to quite like consulting.

(I definitely didn't go to Yale though.)

The Snob writes:

Since when did anyone go to Yale to become interesting? The reason you go there is to get an E ticket ride on the wealth/status ladder. You don't become an interesting person by coloring within the lines. What she fails to recognize is that her classmates are a bunch of very high iq bores. The difference between the soi-disant indie musician and my little nephew who wants to be an astronaut is that my nephew actually means it.

JKB writes:
The idea is, of course, that men are successful because they have gone to college. No idea was ever more absurd. No man is successful because he has managed to pass a certain number of courses and has received a sheepskin which tells the world in Latin, that neither the world nor the graduate can read, that he has successfully completed the work required. If the man is successful, it is because he has the qualities for success in him; the college "education" has merely, speaking in terms' of horticulture, forced those qualities and given him certain intellectual tools with which to work-tools which he could have got without going to college, but not nearly so quickly. So far as anything practical is concerned, a college is simply an intellectual hothouse. For four years the mind of the undergraduate is put "under glass," and a very warm and constant sunshine is poured down upon it. The result is, of course, that his mind blooms earlier than it would in the much cooler intellectual atmosphere of the business world.

A man learns more about business in the first six months after his graduation than he does in his whole four years of college. But-and here is the "practical" result of his college work-he learns far more in those six months than if he had not gone to college. He has been trained to learn, and that, to all intents and purposes, is all the training he has received. To say that he has been trained to think is to say essentially that he has been trained to learn, but remember that it is impossible to teach a man to think. The power to think must be inherently his. All that the teacher can do is help him learn to order his thoughts-such as they are.

Marks, Percy, "Under Glass", Scribner's Magazine Vol 73, 1923, p 47

Isn't it a little sad that in the last 100 years we've made little progress. Perhaps even a bit of loss since so few come out of college these days having benefitted from the "hot house" given all the distractions now available on the modern campus.

Jonathan Bechtel writes:

Can we replace the signalling theory of education with the "Playing House" theory of education?

DougT writes:

Interesting story about Latin diplomas (diplomae?): When I went to work in Tunisia they needed a copy of my Ivy-League college diploma with a "certified" translation of the diploma into Arabic. This being a former French protectorate, the certified translator had to have a license to translate from the language in which the diploma was printed.

Well, the demand for Latin-Arabic translation hadn't been too strong, because there wasn't a single certified Latin-Arabic translator in the country. Thankfully my college had thoughtfully included a little card with the diploma that was an "official" English translation of the Latin. So I was able to get my carte-sejour, and worked there legally.

Another reason those Ivy-League diplomas (diplomae?) are overpriced!

Finch writes:

> I happen to quite like consulting.

Consulting is a wonderful path for people who got a medium-useful degree like economics. It provides all the real training in how business works that college left out, and yet a softer or more general degree is often enough to get you in the door.

John writes:

Is "no-profit" a deliberate typo? If so, well done.

david nh writes:

" I am scared, also, but more for the consulting industry than for her friends."

Sweet. Nurture your inner curmudgeon, Arnold. It's amusing.

M L writes:

Maybe we should come up with a term to describe these poor students that leave college in debt and have to go work for the man to pay back their loans. "Indentured Students" seems to fit.

TGD writes:

They don't "go to work for the man," they become the man. And that's a good thing.

Jake writes:

My greatest regret was not listening to my father when he told me not to waste my time and money on college. Had I joined the Marines four years earlier, I'd have started my business four years earlier and I would be four years richer. I've learned more from Econtalk in the past couple of years than I learned getting my BA in Econ from Penn. Thanks Russ!

Ed Brenegar writes:

As a consultant, the most important lesson I ever learned is that I don't know everything. My job is to learn what is needed to know about an organization, and then apply past lessons to advancing the functioning of the organization.

What I see in this post is an interesting aspect of this. A Yale student graduates (and probably most college/university graduates) not to do something specific, but to be something, a ______ (fill in the blank.) However, once they get into a job, and start doing it, just doing it becomes the focus. "What do you do? I consult." Just being identified by what we do is really not sufficient. We have to figure out what we are accomplishing, achieving, or the difference we are making or the impact we create.

A consultant who simply does consulting is little more than a person functioning on some management assembly line. However, a consultant who can say, this is the change we are going to create understands what real work is about. It is a change process.

I suspect that many students are graduating from schools of higher education committed to creating change, but without a clue as to what they are really to create, achieve or the impact that they are to have. As a result, their high priced education, at any cost, does not provide a foundation for the new graduate to fully realize their potential in the workplace.

With one child out, and two still in college, these are questions that we frequently talk about. And will continue to do so.

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